Judge rules twenty-five year old permit expired under the law’s plain meaning

Sierra club pic of valleyIt only took four years, but common sense has prevailed. The U.S. District Court ruled in favor of Chickaloon Village Traditional Council, local residents, ACAT and other conservation organizations, agreeing that a federal law that says a coal mining permit “shall” terminate if mining doesn’t start within three years of permit issuance means what it says.

The Wishbone Hill coal permit was issued in 1991, but Usibelli Coal Mine Inc. did not start mining until 2010. Usibelli could submit a new permit application under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, thus triggering a new public process allowing neighbors to weigh in.

In the early 1990s, the area around the mine was very different.  Few people lived nearby; now there are more than 900 homes within a mile. Twenty-five years ago, the toxicity of coal and coal dust to humans and wildlife was not as well-understood as it is today.

Lisa Wade, Chickaloon council member, said, “Usibelli was trying to start up a toxic coal mine on lands that are sacred to us, using a permit that was issued 25 years ago. This mine threatens our children’s health, our salmon, our water and air quality, our traditions, and our way of life.”

Pam Miller, ACAT’s Executive Director, said, “This ruling is a victory for all Alaskans who value of clean air and water and toxic-free food.”

The plaintiffs were represented by Trustees for Alaska and Earthjustice.

 

Here are links to some of the press coverage:

Alaska Dispatch News

The Frontiersman

Alaska Public Media

Alaska Journal of Commerce