Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Another Pebble Mine Legal Challenge

Proponents and opponents of the proposed Pebble mine are awaiting an Alaska Superior Court decision in the latest litigation challenging the right of a regional seafood development association to use its funds to oppose the mine.

The lawsuit against the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA), United Tribes of Bristol Bay and Salmon State was filed by six BBRSDA members and paid for by the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP), which is seeking permits to proceed with development of the mine project. One of the plaintiffs, Abe Williams, is the director of regional affairs for the PLP.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration has sided with the plaintiff fishermen by filing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and their opposition to the BBRSDA’s motion to dismiss.

In more than three hours of testimony on Monday, May 13, plaintiffs’ attorneys contended that the BBRSDA was using state funds for ultra vires – purposes beyond the scope of their legal power – for promotion and marketing of Bristol Bay salmon, justifying the request for a preliminary injunction to stop them from doing so.

Attorneys representing the BBRSDA countered that BBRSDA is using its own money from a self-assessed tax greed on its members, rather than state money to fight the proposed mine.

They argued that plaintiffs are trying to create new restrictions on money drift gillnetters pay in taxes based on the harvest.

The BBRSDA noted that state statutes explicitly permit the association to cooperate with other public and private boards, organizations or agencies for joint programs, including consumer education, research and sales promotion programs for seafood products harvested in the region. The brief also argued that the BBRSDA is a development as well as a marketing association, and that there is no question that public and market awareness of the Pebble mine and its potential impact on Bristol Bay salmon is very high. “Plaintiffs’ whole case depends on pretending that the mine and fishery inhabit separate worlds, but of course the proposed mine and the fishery are in the same geographic region and one is rarely mentioned in the same breath without the other,” the BBRSDA’s attorneys said. Alaska Superior Court Judge Yvonne Lamoureux took the matter under advisement.

Meanwhile early today, Iliamna Natives Limited, an Alaska Native village corporation in the Bristol Bay region, announced it had reached agreement with the PLP to provide transportation corridor access on its lands in support of the proposed mine.

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