State sues Lake and Pen Borough over initiative aimed at Pebble

The State of Alaska has filed its challenge to the recently enacted ordinance in Lake and Peninsula Borough aimed at stopping the Pebble mine.

Alleging the ordinance unconstitutionally usurps the state’s role in managing natural resources for the maximum benefit of all citizens, the state filed its lawsuit against Lake and Peninsula Borough in the Alaska Superior Court 3rd District Oct. 28.

The straightforward complaint numbering barely five pages alleges that the ordinance is preempted by state law, and that while home rule boroughs such as Lake and Pen may pass some ordinances governing natural resource development those rules may not conflict with state law.

As enacted, the “Save our Salmon” initiative passed by a 280-244 mail-in vote that was certified Oct. 17 would require a project to receive approval from the borough before it could apply for state and federal permits.

The ordinance, which applies to developments greater than 640 acres, is meant to stop development of the Pebble mine. The Pebble prospect situated west of Iliamna, which includes an estimated $400 billion worth of copper, gold and molybdenum, is on state lands.

In addition to arguing the measure is invalid for usurping the state role in permitting, the complaint alleges the ordinance should also be declared invalid because it, “purports to prohibit development of State land and State-owned minerals.”

In a statement released by his office, Attorney General John Burns said, “This case is not about state support for or against a Pebble Mine project. It is about upholding the State’s constitutional authority and responsibility to evaluate whether, on balance, development of Alaska’s resources is beneficial to all Alaskans. This administration has consistently maintained that the State will not sacrifice one resource for another.

“In the case of Pebble, we haven’t yet even considered the pros and cons of any development that may be proposed. But the Alaska Constitution requires the State – not the borough - to fairly and completely conduct this evaluation.”

11/10/2016 - 10:10pm