Trial Shows Pebble Exploration Safe; Enviromentalist’s Hysterical Claims Hogwash

Last month we told you about the campaign by environmentalists and Washington Senator Maria Cantwell against Alaska’s Pebble Mine, a project that has yet to even be officially proposed. What we didn’t mention in that piece was the existing lawsuit against the project that has been going on for years. Well today Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth ruled against the groups suing the state of Alaska for issuing permits for exploration and temporary water use. The rebuke was total… From the ruling:

“…[T]here is no evidence that Pebble’s exploration activities are now causing or will in the future cause permanent and deleterious changes to the environment. Indeed, Plaintiffs have failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that any long-term and harmful environmental impacts have actually occurred or necessarily will occur at the project site or surrounding environment.

The evidence shows that more than 20 years after minerals were first discovered at Pebble, the site continues to have pristine water and support wildlife and fisheries resources. The harms that Plaintiffs’ witnesses describe are speculative; they are neither harms occurring in fact nor did they show that the harm will necessarily occur.”

Other notable highlights from the decision.

  • Evidence that over 100,000 data points of water monitoring in the Pebble area indicate that exploration drilling has not caused any water contamination.
  • All of the exploration was done with temporary structures and ground covering, and transport for everything was done via helecopter – not a single road or path was made.
  • The Plantiff’s experts tended to testify about potential harms – much like the Sen. Cantwell – yet the actual science and data show that no harm is occuring and that the state is monitoring the areas effectively and the Pebble Partnership reclaiming lands quickly and effectively.

Here’s a more from the ruling (PDF)…

The evidence at trial demonstrated that the permits and Pebble’s activities pursuant thereto have preserved unimpaired the State’s resources such that the State may, at any time, revoke the permit and use its property without any significant temporary or permanent damage or destruction to the underlying land. Indeed, there was no evidence that Pebble’s exploration drill holes or sump pits cause or necessarily will cause acid rock drainage, nor was there any evidence that Pebble’s use of drilling muds and additives cause or will cause harmful and permanent contamination. Despite the drilling of over 1,200 holes, the surface water and groundwater at Pebble remain pure and stable. The evidence also shows that Pebble’s water withdrawals were temporary and that the streams, lakes and ponds from which it takes water recharge at a rapid rate. If its permits were revoked, there would be no permanent or irreparable harm to the water sources in the Pebble study area.

The evidence also shows that there has been no permanent harm to fisheries or wildlife resources in the Pebble study area. Fisheries resources were sufficiently protected by Pebble’s minimal, temporary water withdrawals and use of protective fish screens. If the permits were revoked, the fisheries resources would continue to thrive unaffected by Pebble’s previous exploration activities on site. Similarly, the evidence demonstrates that wildlife has not been permanently or deleteriously affected by the exploration activities at the study area. If Pebble removed all of its structures from the area, the wildlife habitat would look the same as it had before exploration began. The wildlife habitat at Pebble is intact and would remain intact upon revocation of the permits. There is also evidence that once Pebble ends its operations, any wildlife that was displaced by noise will return.

In fact, there was testimony that Pebble could completely remove its operations from the site in two weeks and after one year it would be nearly impossible to tell that there had been any exploration at the site. The evidence shows that Pebble operates a successful reclamation program which remediates disturbed ground and restores damaged vegetation. The exploration operation has not caused any significant or permanent impacts to vegetation in the project area.

…Plaintiffs claim that Pebble’s exploration activities are changing the water chemistry in the streams near the Pebble study area and that such chemical changes are impacting fisheries resources. Plaintiffs have not, however, presented any direct evidence of changed surface water chemistry or adverse impacts to fish as a result of the chemical changes supposedly caused by Pebble’s exploration program. In fact, experts for Plaintiffs and Defendants are in agreement that the surface water at Pebble is some of the cleanest, purest and coldest water they have studied.

That’s a serious judicial slap in the face for environmentalists who vehemently oppose the project, and underscores how important it is to keep the permitting process for Pebble going without interference from U.S. Senators and the federal agencies like the EPA. If you are tweeting about this topic use the GivePebbleAChance hashtag.

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