Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Superior Court Dismisses Pebble-Backed Lawsuit

Alaska Superior Court Judge Yvonne Lamoureux has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the right of Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) to advocate on behalf of others challenging potential impacts of the Pebble mine project in the Bristol Bay watershed area.

The lawsuit, filed by six Bristol Bay fishermen and financed by the Pebble Limited Partnership, alleged that the BBRSDA was spending funds outside of its statutory purposes.

Lamoureux found, in her May 17 decision, that the BBRSDA acted within its statutory purpose of promoting the Bristol Bay fishery in opposing the proposed Pebble mine, which mine opponents contend could have a devastating impact on the world’s largest wild salmon fishery.

The Pebble limited Partnership declined comment on the judge’s decision.

Scott Kendall, legal counsel for the BBRSDA, meanwhile hailed Lamoureux’s decision as a complete vindication of the fisheries association. “She agreed with us that Pebble’s case was entirely without merit, and now the Association can get back to its work of promoting the one of a kind Bristol Bay fishery,” he said.

“This frivolous lawsuit was a desperate attempt to bully and silence those who are digging for the truth about Pebble’s deeply flawed and highly misleading mine plan,” said Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState, which was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB).

The BBRSDA had entered into contracts with SalmonState and UTBB to provide outreach, education and a review related to the draft environmental impact statement on the proposed mine, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hunter Dickinson, the diversified Canadian-owned global mining group proposing to build the Pebble mine.

Alannah Hurley, executive director of UTBB, hailed the ruling for clearing the way for Bristol Bay residents and fishermen to focus on preparing for the return of 40 million salmon this summer and fighting to protect this run for future generations The decision “confirms that the people and fishermen of Bristol Bay have the right to fight for our way of life,” she said.

The judge’s decision explained that state statutes give some guidance on ways regional seafood development associations may band together, tax themselves and use those funds to promote the monetary value of seafood products harvested in the region. These options, she wrote, “include promoting the product, investing in infrastructure to preserve or increase the value of seafood, educating the public on the seafood, researching the product, advertising the product, researching markets and cooperating with other entities for quality control measures and commodity standards.” The judge also found that it is not outside the BBRSDA’s power or authority to conduct technical research of a proposed mine, which relates to and may affect seafood in the region, to conduct outreach and advocacy on the same, or to participate and encourage others to participate in commenting on the draft environmental impact statement as to the potential effect of the mine on their marketable seafood resource.

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