Homer Alaska - Letters

Story last updated at 4:42 PM on Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wiggle room in mine permit process

Can we trust the Pebble permitting process?

I attended the public presentation given by Pebble Partnership recently in Homer. I asked Mike Heatwole, vice president of public affairs, how much public land would be off-limits to hunting if Pebble is approved. He said this will be negotiated with the Department of Natural Resources.

This gets to the heart of whats wrong with states permitting process. Instead of meeting definitive criteria established as priorities, important aspects of permitting will be negotiated; in essence, a politically based call.

This raises serious concern. Despite all the rhetoric about rigorous permitting, the statutory requirements for DNRs water rights permit (vital for Pebble) are based on the commissioner shall consider. The statute does list several generic concerns, but never defines consider; hence requiring nothing that is technically defensible. Apparently, reading a report could qualify.

In short, the statute gives the commissioner wide discretion, leaving the door open for lots of private negotiation and judgment about what data suffices, verification, resource trade-offs, etc.

Is this comforting? Not to me.

George Matz