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September 17, 2021

When in Doubt, Trust….The Bush Administration?

A potentially precedent-setting ruling in a case involving Alaska resource development came through the Supreme Court yesterday.  It involved the legal contamination of a naturally occurring fish-bearing lake on the one hand, and the economic interest of a mining corporation on the other. 

I’ll give you one guess who the court ruled for…and it wasn’t the environment.  (A lightbulb goes off over your head)  “Heyyyy, is this the same Supreme Court that ruled in favor of Exxon recently in that oil spill case?  The one where the environment and local people got the short end of the stick in favor of large corporate interest,” you ask?  Why yes, the very same.

In a 6-3 decision, the mining project was given the green light to contaminate a naturally existing lake and poison its fish….as long as they promise to clean it up later.  Well….as long as they try to clean it up later.  Until now it has been customary for a mine, if it’s going to contaminate a body of water, to contaminate one it made itself.  This is the first time it’s got the green light to muck up one made by Mother Nature.

The entire congressional delegation is just pleased as punch, because it means a couple hundred jobs in Juneau.  As a matter of fact, the Kensington Mine would become Juneau’s second largest employer, at the expense of Slate Lake, which will now become Slate Tailing Pond. 

Now, of course, there was an alternate plan that would have ensured jobs, and resource development.  It involved depositing all the toxic mess on land rather than in the water, but heck, that was kind of expensive!  What, are these gold mining companies made of … money?  Oh, that’s right.  They are. 

Concerns exist also, that the new precedent might affect other mining projects including Pebble Mine which stands to put one of the world’s largest gold mines at the confluence of two rivers and the world’s largest red salmon fishery in Bristol Bay.

Apparently, the court found the regulations from the Clean Water Act, and those from the Environmental Protection Agency to be a little murky.  Contradictory.  Unclear.  There was some wording in a memo written during the Bush administration that the court cited.  And the vote fell on the side of the mine.  When in doubt, trust the Bush administration.

Justices Souter, Stevens and Ginsberg voted with the environment. Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Breyer, Thomas and Alito voted with the toxins.

Alaska’s one and only congressman, Don Young, had this to say:

“The groups that sought to stop this project were sadly willing to kill an entire industry, taking with it countless jobs,” he said. “I respectfully suggest that these career protesters turn in their picket signs and find themselves some honest work just like the people they are trying to hurt have done.”

On another day, it might amuse me that the man who is telling people trying to protect the environment for future generations to “find themselves some honest work” is the same guy that has spent almost $2 million on legal fees, and is currently facing indictment. 

Governor Palin, Senator Murkowski and Senator Begich all issued statements praising the decision, and will undoubtedly have something bad to say if “the feds” come in and rain on mining company Coeur Alaska’s parade.  But there is currently a bill in congress, with 151 cosponsors, that will clear up the wording of the Clean Water Act to state that the word “fill” in this context must exclude mining waste.  Why didn’t the wording “‘The use of any river, lake, stream or ocean as a waste treatment system is unacceptable,'” work?  (shrug)  

I’m sure when this bill comes up for discussion, one of Congressman Don Young’s famous temper tantrums will be available on YouTube shortly thereafter.



43 Responses to “When in Doubt, Trust….The Bush Administration?”
  1. Jim says:

    This is the preferred environmental alternative. The lake is an unproductive lake naturally high in aluminum and other metals that doesn’t meet state water standards. It is illegal for the mine to release water of the same water quality of slate lake. Slate lake water treatment plant will release water meeting state water standards. The alternative would be to destroy wetlands of a much larger acreage then the lake and place tailings on the shores of Lynn Canal. There would be no way to contain or treat the runoff from the tailings into Lynn Canal. In the end the lake is recoverable and the wetlands are not.

  2. strangelet says:

    I understand that Begich is a Dem in a red state. But this wasn’t a vote in the Senate. I’m not suggesting that he should have excoriated the SCOTUS decision — but he didn’t really have to say anything at all, did he? If he was asked for comment, I’m sure he’s been a politician long enough to have mastered the non-answer answer.

    There was no reason for him to praise the decision, unless (a) he truly agrees with it, or (b) he has decided that he must pander to the Red side of AK for the whole six years of his term.

    Ideologically, the Blue Dogs (I prefer the older term Yellow Dogs) are filling the vacant niche that used to be inhabited by the extinct liberal Republicans. Unfortunately, they, like the once-liberal Repos, do not have enough power to create policy; only to emasculate it.

    In his first six months, Begich has demonstrated several instances of the “centrist” pathology. “Centrist” really means “compromise to the point where nothing actually happens”. You never hear about “centrists” when Republicans are in the majority. Centrism is pretty much a Democratic affliction, and it arises when politicians assign a higher priority to getting re-elected than to standing up for the principles they espoused to get elected in the first place.

    I’m not an Alaskan, but I still care how Mark Begich turns out, because he and Murkowski are 2% of the US Senate, representing 670,000 Alaskans. I’m in California, where we also have 2% of the Senate, representing 34,000,000 Californians. We can live with Yellow Dog congresspersons, but Yellow Dog Senators are a disaster.

  3. sauerkraut says:

    I’ve been saying it for a few days now… to the point it’s becoming a mantra.

    For decades, the feds said everything was a-okay in Libby, MT.

    Now the taxpayer is paying thru the nose to clean the place up.

    All because the people who ought to know better are too busy picking each others’ noses.

    And shall we reference the fly ash mess in the mid-south? Hell, fly ash is such a state secret that no one is able to determine where they dump the sh*t, even here in pennsyltucky. All so someone can make a buck and fly off to Martinique and Hong Kong.

  4. InJuneau says:

    Blooper–yeah, it’s kind of weird, isn’t it? I keep hoping the blue will spread out from Juneau and pockets of Anchorage and Rural AK, but we just don’t seem to be able to pull it off yet… 🙁

  5. Blooper says:

    InJunea: Sometimes I wonder if Don will be the next Strom Thurmond and inhabit the halls of congress for all eternity. The way Alaskans keep voting him in I have to wonder…

  6. InJuneau says:

    Blooper–that would be the day!

  7. Blooper says:

    In bizarro world (where Don Young is actually a decent congressman), he would have issued this statement:

    “The groups that sought to save this project were sadly willing to kill an entire ecosystem, taking with it countless lives,” he said. “I respectfully suggest that these mining corporations reel in their lawyers and find themselves an honest reason to exist just like the wildlife they are trying to destroy have done.”

  8. CRFlats says:

    AKM, Thanks for the acronym:

    euwwww a rat infection

  9. Say NO to Palin in Politics says:

    State Senate plans hearing on TransCanada-Exxon partnership

    ” The Alaska Senate Resources and Energy committees will meet June 23 in Anchorage to review the agreement announced last week between Exxon and TransCanada Corp. involving construction of a natural gas pipeline.

    The meeting, at the Legislative Information Office, 716 W. Fourth Ave., Room 220, will be open to the public.

    “State Sens. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, and Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, the Senate Resources co-chairs, said representatives from TransCanada and Exxon will give presentations and answer questions about their partnership.

    The joint committee also has invited the BP/ConocoPhillips Denali gas-line team and Gov. Sarah Palin’s gas-line team to present project updates, according to a written announcement.

    The meeting will begin at 2 p.m. and is scheduled to run three hours. However, it can be extended if needed, the announcement said. “

  10. Doggonit says:

    Bush legacy… another pile of failure for him stand on with a blow horn saying they hate us for our freedom.

    Justice Scalia, “Isn’t it arguable that the best place for — for really toxic stuff is at the bottom of a pristine lake.”

    Gov Palin, “Let me take my governor’s hat off just for a minute here and tell you, personally, Prop 4 — I vote no on that. We’re going to make sure that mines operate only safely, soundly.”

  11. Canadian Neighbour says:

    Thanks AKM.

    I laughed at your reference “he’d be a non-existent dog”.

    I’ve been trying to make the sound of a dog of a different bark. If anyone was around to hear me, they’d pack me off to a funny farm!

    So no longer a Woof but a “Woo”

  12. akmuckraker says:

    Mark Begich….

    I love him most of the time. I want to strangle him some of the time. He is working as a Democrat…the first one in a VERY long time…in the heart of a state that is one of the reddest of the red. He is a blue dog. And if he weren’t, he’d be a non-existent dog.

    I tend to believe his heart lies left of what he sometimes does. Politics is a dirty business. Hence the name of the blog.


  13. Canadian Neighbour says:

    To read that Begich is praising the decision makes you wonder. Does it negate what appeared to be concern of the healthcare which you posted in an earlier blog as his praising the Court decision has serious long term repercussions for the citizens and Natives. He’s concerned for them, oops hold on, what’s that you say — flip flop — no he’s not — I think — I don’t know.

    Cleaning up after themselves — is that going to be anything like the story that I just read of something like a 50 year waiting to be cleaned up by a company that’s out of business, etc.? You have so many horror stories like this, I can’t remember which one except it was on the north shores of Alaska and Canadian Courts are involved.

    Another ADN story: Pebble mine had stake in case (5/26/07) (it’s been updated June 22)

    A court decision this week blocking a Southeast Alaska gold mine’s waste disposal method could create more hurdles for the world-class Pebble copper and gold deposit.
    If the ruling stands, the Kensington Gold Mine near Juneau — which is nearing the end of construction — will be forced into a costly redesign

    In otherwords — what are they up to?? They’ve been making plans based on the ruling for the Mining Company.

    Add in another possible push to the train which has been slowly chugging down the Pebble Mine road .
    ADN story: “Rival moves to take over Anglo American” which is one of the companies involved in Pebble Mine.
    There is a comment on the page: There’s been an update sent out on this. Anglo declined the merger. In my opinon, with good reason.

    The other company, Xstrata, is the world’s largest exporter of coal for power stations, lead a hostile takeover last year that failed. What’s saying they won’t try another takeover.

    The water is very murky.

  14. hedgewytch says:

    Begich just lost my vote. I used to support him. I remember him from a decade ago when he was just staring up the political ladder. I used to see him at the tribal environmental conferences. He seemed genuine and really concerned for preserving Alaskan’s environment. Guess who was fooled.

    I’ve never trusted Young and Murkowski. But at least Young is unabashed about his support for industry at the expense of the environment while Lisa just hems and haws and talks out of her behind.

    All please consider Dr. Ricky Ott et al’s project and forward and post it all around. (This is relevant becuase of the decisions such as this and the Exxon Valdez one that allow Corporate interests to trump citizen health and well being.)

    Draft Language for the 28th Amendment – Separation of Corporation and State

    Draft language for a proposed 28th Amendment is being co-created via discussion on Facebook and being vetted by constitutional attorneys. Please join us for conversation on this topic on the Facebook page One Million Strong for Separation of Corporation and State.

    Current proposed language: “This amendment affirms that constitutional rights extend only to human persons. Corporations, partnerships, and other organizational entities are not human persons and, therefore, are not entitled to constitutional protections.”

    Great site. I’ve got it in linked in the side bar also. AKM

  15. Say NO to Palin in Politics says:

    24owls said: “the mining co had friends in high places with the state and federal departments and that along with the slick lawyers found the loopholes.”

    yeah, one of those slick lawyers who knows people in high places is very likely AK’s new AG.

  16. AKjah says:

    This just goes to show how much work need be done to protect Bristol bay. The law should be clear BEFORE they start Pebble.

  17. Marnie says:

    “Why didn’t the wording “‘The use of any river, lake, stream or ocean as a waste treatment system is unacceptable,’” work? (shrug) ”

    Because all of us do in fact understand that the purpose of the
    EPG and Clean Air Act are intended to prevent pollution.

    But when you have sewer dwellers and snakes running the country and putting other sewer dwellers in power you get the kind of twisted perverted mentality of Bush, Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, Rove, Chaney,. et al.
    We will be living with their poison in our systems for the rest of our lives and for several generations to come.

    Bush indeed does have the lasting Historical legacy that he desires.

  18. I posted Justice Ginsberg’s dissent yesterday over at progressive alaska. I’ve put bold emphasis on some of her more important points. This decision deeply troubled her:

    Just as troubling to me, though, was Sen. Begich’s swift and totally uninformed response. I’m preparing an open letter to him, which i’ll also send to his office.

  19. Paula says:


  20. Lilybart says:

    Wouldn’t there have been MORE Jobs if the court sided with nature? People needed to take the poison away to a landfill?

    and would the mining company not mine GOLD with prices grazing $900 an ounce????

  21. mlaiuppa says:

    It didn’t work because you have too many literal conservatives on the court.

    Too bad the only appointees Obama will probably get to make will be Ginsburg and Souter. We need to even up the court a little better.

  22. Lilybart says:

    The sliver lining about the court, is that the states or the federal government can correct laws in question with legislation.

    Like the Kelo decision on imminent domain. the gov has the right to take land but the voters need to define what that means.

    So, this decision can be fixed by congress.

  23. wasillawarrior says:

    Well said nailed it.

  24. bubbles says:

    bush and company have brought this country to the brink of total collapse.and i mean bush one and bush two and don’t forget clinton who did nothing but pander to the ultra right and and gave us nafta and i believe cafta is his doing also[ correct me on that if i got it wrong.]. my heart aches for what is being done to destroy our lakes, rivers and oceans. dr.chill like i said to flyinyoureyein the previous thread. please make this graphic into tees. chill you live where this can be done real easy.just make them for me and my peeps. ok? please?

  25. WakeUpAmerica says: This site shows what a goofus Young is. He is a Bush wannabe (speaks English as a second language).

  26. Firecracker says:

    What we have here is more corporate welfare. It really doesn’t matter where it comes from – legislative branch, executive branch or the courts – the amount of corporate welfare in this country is out of control. Until we can get corporations out of our government we will continue to see laws and court rulings in favor of corporations and against people/environment. The idea that we are a capitalist society is a joke and what we do is privatize profit and socialize risk. We (the people) will now take on the risk for this company. If they pollute Slate Lake it is the people that will have to take on the responsibility of cleaning it up or accepting that the lake and its resources are no longer available to us because it cannot be cleaned up at all.

  27. CO almost native says:

    Totally OT OT, but hilarious take on Gov. Sanford:

  28. CO almost native says:

    pvazwindy Says:
    June 23rd, 2009 at 10:26 AM

    11 CO almost native Says:
    June 23rd, 2009 at 10:19 AM
    I emailed Senator Begich with my concerns, citing Colorado’s experience. It will be interesting to see if I get a response-

    Remember Grand Junction, CO. The town that glowed at night. Uranium tailings used for fill, for new housing projects.

    Colorado still has glow-in-the-dark places. No laughing matter.


    Thank you for your insights. I’ll be writing my Congressmen to urge a rewrite of the language to tighten up this loophole. ASAP- can’t come too soon.

  29. wasillawarrior says:

    Don Young is such a wind bag…Begich is disappointing, lumping himself in with that unsavory crew..he’s turning into a politician’s politician..

  30. 24owls says:

    If I might add an opinion on the court’s opinion – part of what they were ruling on was if the Bush Admin and the Army Core side had proven that with the information they had at the time did the mining company get the proper approval to rid its waste and kill the lake as opposed to dumping the waste on land. The court ruled in favor of that because – at that time – the clean water act had loopholes in which the Bush/Core/mining co took advantage of. So the court was looking at the permit process and approval versus clean water act law at that time and not the environmental impact. The second part of the ruling was about if the clean water act law had changed from the time of the original permit process approval, was the permit still valid and unfortunately they agreed it was 6-3.

    I read and study court rulings for hours and at great length, both federal and state in cases such as this. I totally disagree with this ruling as far as the environment is concerned but the mining co had friends in high places with the state and federal departments and that along with the slick lawyers found the loopholes. Thankfully those loopholes will be closed up soon but the same kind of permit process that led to this company killing off an Alaskan lake has been used in the hill top mining in West Virginia and Tenn which kill off the wildlife, lakes and streams located in those parts.

    I totally agree with AKM and again a fantasic read but the law was flawed and unfortunately the environment loses again.

  31. pvazwindy says:

    11 CO almost native Says:
    June 23rd, 2009 at 10:19 AM
    I emailed Senator Begich with my concerns, citing Colorado’s experience. It will be interesting to see if I get a response-

    Remember Grand Junction, CO. The town that glowed at night. Uranium tailings used for fill, for new housing projects.

  32. CO almost native says:

    I emailed Senator Begich with my concerns, citing Colorado’s experience. It will be interesting to see if I get a response-

  33. InJuneau says:

    Martha–he’s an Alaskan D; the ones who are politicians tend to be much more pro-business/pro-development/etc. than the grassroots ones…

  34. Phil says:

    One word in your “Categories” list at the end of the post sums this action up perfectly, Numbskullery! How can these people be so dumb. You would think if the wording was cloudy they would rule on the side of nature not man. Just look at all the things man has done to create jobs and money and now we have to try and fix what we’ve done because it has upset the balance of nature. One good point is that in the future, if there is one, billions of dollars and thousands of jobs will be available in Southeast Alaska from the new super fund created to clean the mess Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Breyer, Thomas, Alito and Bush have made.

  35. CO almost native says:

    @ AKM:

    Bwa ha ha…heh heh. good one. Perhaps Dr. Chill could create a cartoon commentary?

  36. Martha says:

    Governor Palin, Senator Murkowski and Senator Begich all issued statements praising the decision, and will undoubtedly have something bad to say if “the feds” come in and rain on the mining company Coeur Alaska’s parade.

    Senator Begich appears to be a DINO. What a shame.

  37. InJuneau says:

    Guess we’d better get in a kayak trip to Berners Bay before it’s Berners Dead Bay

  38. Betsy Drake says:

    SP is clearly not an environmentalist. Keep her out of the White House.

  39. It’s always a sad day when the environment loses – sad for everyone. It’s too bad that some of them just never get it. Now, if only the wording that fixes the loop hole can be enacted retroactively. My guess, however, is that this decision will be grandfathered in, so the lake and fish still are the victims.

  40. BigPete says:

    It’s hard to feel resentment towards Kennedy and Breyer, when an “ultra red” State’s own political class is all in favor of polluting the environment.

  41. CO almost native says:

    As a resident of Colorado, I know all about the long-term toxic effects of mine tailings, no matter what they are called. They last for decades, even hundreds of years- and anyone who says they can magically make the lake as good as new is either a snake oil salesman, or a resident of the “Twilight Zone”.

    I am surprised at Breyer, and maybe Kennedy–but not the Gang of Four. Repugs who decry “activist” judges should look at the decisions their own activists have made…

    They’re easy to remember: (R)obert (A)lito (T)homas (S)calia – RATS. AKM

  42. Tewise says:

    This is truly a very sad day and a very bad call on behalf of the Court. Hopefully they can pass a law to re-word and fix this loop hole.

  43. Aussie Blue Sky says:

    “Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Breyer, Thomas and Alito”

    Isn’t it awful knowing these names will be sending a chill down our collective spine for decades to come?

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