Protect Alaska's Clean Water Act v.3 (2008)
The Clean Water Act version 3 is an initiated state statute meant to preserve the clean waters of Alaska. Its supporters hope to qualify it for the November 2008 ballot. However, they are in a pitched legal battle with groups that oppose the measure. While the first version of the initiative, Alaska's Clean Water Act is being challenged, this version is seen as the "backup" initiative more likely to make it to the ballot.
The measure would create standards and amounts for metallic industries to follow.
The initiative has its roots in protests over various proposals to develop a mine at the Pebble copper and gold prospect in southwest Alaska near Lake Iliamna. The state legislature responded with a variety of bills intended to address opposition to the mine, such as HB 41, which transfered the project to the Fish and Game Department. However, none of these legislative overtures were successful, and as a result, those opposed to the mine came together in a coalition to fight it through the initiative process. Unlike legislation, state initiatives are not allowed to specifically address an issue; because of this, the initiative is worded in such a way that opponents fear it will impact mining throughout the state, not just at Pebble.
Some of the toxins that the act targets include cyanide, sulfuric acid, compounds of cyanide or sulfuric acid, and other toxic agents found to be harmful.
Primary Sponsors include Arthur J. Hackney, Dale E. Wagner, and Mark A. Niver. The sponsors are part of the Renewable Resources Coalition which is also sponsoring the Pollution Zone Act and the Fisheries Conservation Act. The coalition was formed in 2005 to fight the development of the Pebble project.
Bob Gillam, one of Alaska's wealthiest individuals, has reportedly been a major donor to the campaign to block Pebble from being built. Gillam, a financial manager and fervent sportfisherman, has a personal stake in blocking development in the region, as owner of a large, private lodge on Lake Clark, 30 miles northeast of the Pebble deposit.
Last year, Gillam told The Wall Street Journal his cabin has nothing to do with the Pebble fight. He has not said how much he has spent to fund Pebble's opposition.
It was reported in May 2008 that a company owned by Gillam, McKinley Capital Management, has been investing millions over the past year in an international mining firm involved in the Pebble development.
Many said they weren't surprised that McKinley would invest in a rising stock and found it merely ironic that Gillam's company was investing in one of Pebble's major backers.
"I applaud him for keeping his personal and professional obligations separated," said Brian Andrews, Alaska deputy revenue commissioner.
"I think it is interesting," said Dick Cattanach, executive director emeritus of the Associated General Contractors of Alaska, and a board member of a pro-Pebble group, Truth about Pebble. "Bob is a smart investor and he wouldn't buy a company for personal reasons. ... He may disagree with Anglo being out there. If (Anglo) is a good investment, he should buy it for (his clients)," Cattanach said.
Anders Gustafson, a fishing guide in the region, says that the coalition is acting on behalf of concerned citizens in the area, especially those in the area that run fishing lodges, such as money manager Robert B. Gillam who is actively fighting Pebble project.
"Wild salmon and clean water should be more important to Alaskans than gold and copper. Renewable resources should always trump nonrenewable ones," said Richard Jameson, director of Renewable Resources.
The Resource Development Council for Alaska is opposed to the initiative, saying that it will shut down the $10 billion mining industry in the state. The group is organized under the Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown.
Truth About Pebble, a non-profit citizens organization based in Alaska, supports the Pebble Project and opposes this initiative.
Opponents argue that the proposed copper project can be developed in a manner that protects important fish, game, and water resources. They say this initiative would:
- Prevents a fair and open review and permit process
- Prohibit the operation of any major metal mine over 640 acres if it creates any waste rock or tailings (a operational component of mining)
- Prohibit any water discharge from a mine-even if it meets existing water quality standards.
The Alaska Miner Association member said the measure is drastic and "[They] could effectively stop mining. It's brutal."
The Clean Water Act v.3 and the similar Protect Alaska's Clean Water Act (2008) are both in litigation. The initiatives are being challenged by Miners and Natives who plan to build mines in the future. Renewable Resources Coalition has vowed to fight back, and both sides are plan to appeal until the decision reaches Alaska's supreme court.
Currently signatures have been turned in and are being validated. In late February, Judge Douglas Blankenship ruled that the initiative is unconstitutional; this ruling can been appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.
- Petition drive deadlines in 2008
- Alaska signature requirements
- Alaska 2008 ballot measures
- Alaska Initiative Law
- Campaign finance requirements for Alaska ballot measures
- Renewable Resources Coalition web site
- Truth about Pebble web site
- Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown web site
- Mineweb, Citing potential impacts on current mines, Alaska miners launch media campaign against anti-Pebble project initiative, April 4, 2008
- Anchorage Daily News: "Enemy of Pebble also an investor in mining firm," May 10, 2008
- Clean water initiatives aimed at Pebble could reach far beyond, Daily News-Miner, Jan. 2, 2008 (dead link)
- The Anti-Mining Initiative Could Shut Down All Major Metal Mines in Alaska, Resource Development Council
- Miners, Natives seek to block initiatives, Anchorage Daily News, Feb. 12, 2008