Alaska to appeal Corps' Pebble decision
Says arbitrary decision sets precedent that could harm state North of 60 Mining News – January 11, 2021
Last updated 1/14/2021 at 5:32pm
Alaska officials say the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers neglected to follow its own guidance when setting mitigations measures for Pebble and the state is appealing Army Corps' decision to deny federal permits required to develop a mine at the world-class metals deposit on state lands in Southwest Alaska.
"The flawed decision by the Alaska District creates a dangerous precedent that will undoubtedly harm Alaska's future and, any potential project can fall victim to the same questionable standards," said Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy. "We have to prevent a federal agency, in this instance, the Alaska District of the Army Corps of Engineers, from using the regulatory process to effectively prevent the state from fulfilling a constitutional mandate to develop its natural resources."
As such, Dunleavy said the Alaska Department of Law will file an administrative appeal with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Pacific Ocean Division, over the Alaska District's decision to deny the Clean Water Act Section 404 permit for the proposed Pebble copper-gold-silver-rhenium mine.
"This appeal asks the Army Corps Pacific Ocean Division to remand the permit decision back to the Alaska District for a more thorough review consistent with the law," said Acting Attorney General Ed Sniffen.
Following the July publication of a Final Environmental Impact Statement for Pebble, the Army Corps sent Pebble Limited Partnership a letter detailing the need for "in-kind" and "in-watershed" mitigation for roughly 3,650 acres of wetlands and 185 miles of streams to be disturbed by mine development.
The disturbance-to-conservation ratio of mitigation demanded by Army Corps is unprecedented in Alaska, and contrary to the regulator's standard practice.
"The division ignored Corps' long-standing guidance that required it to tailor mitigation requirements to recognize Alaska's unique position of holding more intact wetlands than any of the Lower 48 states combined," said Sniffen. "Instead, the division is requiring mitigation measures that are simply impossible to meet in Alaska."
Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige says the high mitigation measures for Pebble, which is located on state mining claims, sets a precedent that could affect a major source of income for Alaska – natural resource development.
"The Alaska District's decision has far-reaching and ominous implications for our rights as a state to develop our resources for the benefit of all Alaskans, whether its mineral deposits like Pebble, or oil and gas on the North Slope, or other resources anywhere in the state," she said. "The Alaska Constitution specifically directs us to develop our resources in the public interest. When a federal agency arbitrarily tries to deprive us of our rights with the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen, we simply must challenge that action."