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Pebble MLUPs judged irrevocable


Last updated 6/7/2015 at Noon

The Alaska Supreme Court May 29 ruled that public notices should have been required before the Alaska Department of Natural Resources issued some miscellaneous land-use permits to the Pebble Limited Partnership, overturning a lower court ruling.

Land- and water-use permits are needed for mineral exploration drilling in Alaska.

The ruling came as a result of a court case in which Nunamta Aulukestai took DNR to court over the lack of public notice prior to issuing permits for exploration at the Pebble Project in Southwest Alaska.

Due to the lack of exploration or standing permits for exploration at Pebble, the case was moot by the time it was heard in Supreme Court. Justices, however, delivered an opinion in order to determine which party prevailed for the sake of rewarding attorney's fees and costs.

The opinion also serves as precedent for DNR when similar situations arise in the future.

The court decision revolved around the revocability or irrevocability of the miscellaneous land-use permits in question.

These permits are generally considered revocable if the permittee does not meet the rules and guidelines of the permit.

In the case of a project like Pebble, where large sums of money are being invested for exploration, the justices questioned DNR's will to revoke the permits.

"We conclude that the (Pebble) MLUPs are not functionally revocable in light of the investment in prior exploration activities that would be lost if they were revoked," the justices concluded.

They also opined that concrete casings filling drill holes are permanent structures that weigh on the revocability of the now long-expired permits.


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