Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chuitna Setback on Heels of Wishbone Permit Withdrawal Not a Good Sign - How Can You Help?

One of three salmon rivers to be killed
It was announced late yesterday that the State of Alaska has rejected a petition to stop PacRim Coal from ruining at least three prime salmon streams in Upper Cook Inlet, across from Anchorage, to dig up slurry coal.  This comes within a week of the announcement by Usabelli Coal that it has withdrawn the operative air quality permit for its Wishbone Hill coal mine prospect (good news), just feet away from Palmer area residential neighborhoods (and 3.8 miles upwind from my house).

From the AP:
Department of Natural Resources Commission Dan Sullivan issued his decision in a 109-page ruling.

In January 2010, the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Cook Inletkeeper submitted a petition to protect Cook Inlet and its surrounding communities from environmental damage associated with strip mining proposed by Delaware-based PacRim Coal LP.

Part of PacRim's plan calls for the removal of 11 miles of Middle Creek, a tributary deemed by the Department of Fish and Game to be significant to salmon spawning in Cook Inlet. The company claims it would be able to restore the stream after more than 25 years of the mine's operation.

Sullivan ruled "that reclamation is technologically feasible."
So is going to Mars "feasible."  So is feeding every child on the planet "feasible."  The reality, though, is that PacRim Coal LP can be sold to some scam offshore successor as soon as the mine has done its damage, leaving PacRim's executives and stockholders completely off the hook to do what Parnell's hacks are claiming to be "feasible" restoration.

And that is exactly what will happen at Chuitna, Wishbone Hill and Pebble - after the damage is done, the companies will find a way to walk away with their dirty profits and leave the restoration costs to taxpayers.  Your children and grandchildren.

It happens all the time.

This is not good news. It may be the first of a set of decisions that lead to massive contamination of pristine areas in the outskirts of Palmer, across Cook Inlet, and in the uplands east of Bristol Bay (Pebble Mine). Citizens need to act together to stop these projects from happening in their current configurations.

How can you help?

By supporting Cook Inletkeeper (my wife and I are members, and about to raise our level of support), and of Friends of Mat-Su (also members, and I serve as secretary of FoMS's board of directors).  By keeping well informed about mining issues in Alaska.

I'm not against mining and mineral extraction, but all three of these projects, as contemplated, are outrageous environmental crimes in the making.

Only YOU can stop them - by helping the organizations leading the fight for development sanity.


Anonymous said...

you made a very clear description of what happens in corporate America. if the gov. wanted to guarantee the corp. cleaned up after themselves he would have included corp. funding of cleanup during extraction or else an insurance policy to fund the cleanup if the corp. fails. short of that, you are right on the mark.

Anonymous said...

Beside the question of bonding, it would be worthwhile to find out if a mined salmon stream has ever been restored to full productivity after the fact. It seems a dubious proposition.

Bob Shavelson said...

Thanks Phil. Always appreciate your work to bring these issues to the fore! Our permitting system is broken when the politicians and the corporations who control them refuse to ask "if" a project should destroy salmon habitat, and only want to know "how" to do it.


Philip Munger said...

Thanks, Bob!

Anonymous said...

Sullivan ruled "that reclamation is technologically feasible." He is wrong. The river may be restored but not the unique diverse salmon populations.

I am a very strong supporter of mining but D Sullivan may be technically wrong on this one.

The species of salmon that spawn in that 25 miles of is unique and has slightly different genetics than all other salmon. This is true for salmon populations in all streams, and even parts of streams in Alaska. There are differences between salmon from stream to stream and even within different areas of the same stream. It is this genetic diversity that allows Alaska salmon to be able to survive changes in the environment and possible diseases.

A loss of genetic diversity will have an unknown impact on the survival of salmon in other nearby streams. The continual cross breading of stray salmon keeps the entire population strong.

In Oregon, hatchery salmon have all the same genetics and no diversity . They can be produced in great numbers but they are susceptible to disease or slight environmental changes.

The crash of hatchery salmon populations in the Northwest underscored the need for genetic diversity. The Alaska Board of Fish has recognized the importance of genetic diversity to keep salmon populations healthy.

Once the genetically unique salmon of middle creek are killed off this species will be gone forever. Stocking middle creek with salmon from another stream or even from a different part of the same stream, is not the same and will have an unknown detrimental impact on all salmon populations in the area.

Sullivan's ruling "that reclamation is technologically feasible." is off target. The river may be restored but not the unique diverse salmon populations.

Genetic diversity may not be sexy but it is very important. The opponents of pebble mine are very focussed on dramatic horror stories. They should consider how the loss of spawning grounds will impact genetic diversity. Pebble says they will enhance the populations of other streams, but they do not address how that will impact genetic diversity.

A valley conservative.

Philip Munger said...

A valley conservative,

You're right.

My daughter is hoping to work in the field of salmon stock restoration down in Washington, where they are actually trying - as best they can - to do this in a few places, most notably the Elwha River.

Essentially, our state has an obligation to both develop our resources and to protect them. When these duties overlap or conflict, the tools to handle that rationally have been handed over to structures that overwhelmingly favor short-term development projects over generational sustainability. So, the problems are no longer dealt with rationally. They have been turned over to the political process, where campaign funding trumps science and common sense every fucking time.

Robyn said...

The Anchorage chapter of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom a few years ago showed a series of films on mining, all types. The results of mining are depressingly consistent: pollution left to its own devices, destroying streams and water sources. Do a little research on the history of the mining industry and you won't believe, even if it's "feasible" to restore a stream, that the mining companies have any intention of doing so and the political will to force them is absent. Yes, in the U.S., the short-term always trumps the long-term, and progressives who prefer to look down the road are labeled as "tree-huggers" and "wimps." I'm a proud tree-hugger and salmon-lover. We can live nicely without more dirty coal loosed upon the planet, but we can't live for long without healthy wild salmon. What a great education about the importance of every stream for biological diversity. Thank you, Anonymous!