Tuesday, June 21, 2011

As Mat-Su Coal Battles Heat Up, A Big Public Meeting Wednesday in Wasilla

Both the pro-coal development camp and the anti-open-pit-mine-only-hundreds-of-meters-from-healthy-communities camp are gearing up for this fight. The best article so far on how the battle lines are being drawn, by K.T. McKee, for the June 2nd edition of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, is a bit incurious about some aspects of community concern:
Picking apart each statement, Carter said that although local media initially reported that Wells Fargo and Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union had denied home and construction loans on properties near Wishbone Hill off Buffalo Mine Road, those lending institutions have recently made it clear they will not deny financing on property near the mine simply because of its location.

Wells Fargo’s regional manager for mortgage lending, Rod Jackson, said a loan officer had made a mistake when she told a client the bank could not finance a home because of its proximity of the mine.

“Everyone jumped the gun,” Jackson said. “There’s no mine, so there’s no issue. We can’t turn down a loan based on something that isn’t even there.”

Jackson said that if a mine does end up going in at Wishbone Hill, it will be up to appraisers to determine if the property is lendable.

“The appraisers are the ones who look after the values, not the banks,” Jackson said.

Wells Fargo Public Relations Manager David Kennedy sent out an additional statement Thursday that the email a loan officer had sent to a customer was “related to a specific transaction and was not in any way, shape or form intended to serve as a blanket statement regarding Wells Fargo’s commitment to mortgage lending in the Mat-Su Valley. Wells Fargo is open for business and we continue to provide mortgage loans in the Valley.”

Matanuska Valley FCU leader Al Strawn sent out a single statement: “MVFCU is granting real estate loans in the mine area.”
While the way McKee approaches this might get him a round of drinks at the next Wasilla Chamber of Commerce happy hour, it is only part of the story. The reality, as shown in numerous towns in the Appalachian Mountains near open pit mines, is that property values almost always go down once a mine like the one proposed by Moose Creek is put into serious operational mode.

Adjacent to mines that are in areas that experience high winds, the properties downwind from mines go down in value by significant amounts. No Appalachian mine that I'm aware of experiences routine winds like those encountered in the part of the Matanuska Valley area downwind from the prevailing air currents there.

If you want to learn more about issues involving this proposed development, please come to the Menard Sports Center on Wednesday, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

disclaimer: My wife has been a member of the Alaska Center for the Environment, and we are current members of Cook Inletkeeper, and lifetime members of Friends of Mat-Su. I am on the board of directors of FoMS. All are involved in this fight for public health and sound development practices.

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