Bristol Bay Residents Assert Pebble Exploration Violates State Constitution

Exploration permits could be suspended as a result of lawsuit filed today

Anchorage, Alaska—A Bristol Bay Alaska Native organization and several individuals, including former Alaska First Lady Bella Hammond and Alaska Constitutional Convention delegate Victor Fischer, filed a civil suit in Anchorage Superior Court today asserting that the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) repeatedly violated the Alaska Constitution in granting permits for Pebble mine exploration. The lawsuit asserts that the agency failed to consider the public’s interest in sustaining the region’s rich salmon, wildlife, and subsistence resources, which are negatively affected by exploration activities. Plaintiffs are asking the court to halt exploration until the case is resolved.

“DNR has neglected its legal and moral obligation to protect Bristol Bay’s subsistence resources,” said Bobby Andrew, spokesman for Nunamta Aulukestai, a lead plaintiff. “Current exploration is having a serious impact on water and wildlife, yet the agency continues to rubber stamp permits and ignore the public interest.”

The lawsuit filed today asserts that DNR has violated multiple sections of Article VIII of the Alaska Constitution in repeatedly issuing exploration permits without public notice and without analyzing whether exploration or the mine itself are in the public interest.

Plaintiffs have asked the court for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the State from granting or extending permits for exploration and water use on mining claims held by the Pebble Limited Partnership, effectively stopping further exploration until the court makes a final decision – or until the State Legislature enacts a new regulatory framework for onshore mining exploration. The injunction would not apply to mining activities elsewhere in the state. Plaintiffs have also asked the court to void all exploration permits already issued by DNR to the Pebble Limited Partnership, Pebble East Corp., and Pebble West Corp.

Public interest law firm Trustees for Alaska filed the six-count civil action on behalf of Nunamta Aulukestai, an organization comprising eight Native village corporations, including Ekwok, Koliganek, New Stuyahok, Clarks Point, Aleknagik, Togiak, Manakotak and Dillingham. Joining in the suit as co-plaintiffs are Nondalton resident Jack Hobson, Nondalton resident Ricky Delkittie, Sr., Naknek resident Violet Willson, former Alaska First Lady Bella Hammond, and former Alaska legislator and Alaska Constitutional Convention delegate Victor Fischer.

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