Monday, March 19, 2007

CWA Can't Be Used To Destroy A Lake

Mar 16: The U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit has issued an order saying that the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) cannot be used to destroy an Alaskan lake [See WIMS 12/06/06] (Southeast Alaska Conservation Council v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Coeur Alaska, Case No. 06-35679). Earthjustice who represented the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Lynn Canal Conservation, and the Sierra Club, said the ruling that may set precedent about how the Act is interpreted nationwide.

Earthjustice indicated that although the full ruling is not yet released, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was wrong in letting a gold mine company dump toxic mine tailings into a lake near Juneau. In the first of a two-part ruling on Kensington Mine dumping operations, the Appeals Court said, "In issuing its permit to Coeur Alaska for the use of Lower Slate Lake as a disposal site, the Corps violated the Clean Water Act," Today's ruling disallowed a diversion ditch which the court said was environmentally destructive and which violated a previous injunction against the mine. But, the court said it would rule against the entire dumping procedure in its final opinion.

Tom Waldo, attorney for Earthjustice, the non-profit law firm that filed the appeal on behalf of the citizen and conservation groups said, "The ruling should prevent mines across the United States from likewise dumping into lakes, streams and rivers. The Kensington permit was a test case by the Bush Administration to resurrect destructive mining practices from the pick-and-shovel days. We've learned from the mistakes of the past. The Clean Water Act prohibited these practices, and today's court ruling confirms that."

Waldo expressed hope that the court ruling would deter such operations elsewhere in Alaska -- notably the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, home of the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery. Pebble Mine, like Kensington, is designed to dump vast quantities of toxic mine tailings into lakes. A broad coalition of business, environmental, fishing and native groups is opposing the mine because of its damaging potential.

Access a release from Earthjustice (
click here). Access the first part of the ruling (click here). [*Water]