Not the fault of environmentalists

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, February 01, 2007

Recently Coeur Alaska placed an ad falsely blaming the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council for the stoppage of work at the Kensington Mine. Because the mine occurs on land zoned for mineral extraction, there is only one entity that has the power to stop Kensington Mine, and that is Coeur Alaska.

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Environmentalists do not write laws - that power belongs to the elected representatives of the American people. Environmentalists do not judge the legality of corporate and agency actions - that power belongs to the judiciary. Environmentalists do not enforce laws - that power belongs to the executive branch and its agencies. Environmentalists do serve as watchdogs and ask judges to determine whether certain actions are legal. If they are illegal, the appropriate agencies are obliged to enforce the law.

When the Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, nearly two-thirds of our nation's waters were unsafe for swimming or fishing. One of the goals of the act has been to eliminate the discharge of pollutants into our nation's waters. This has eliminated the dumping of mine waste into our nation's lakes, rivers and estuaries - that is until Coeur Alaska chose to become the first mine since the passage of the law to try to dump its waste in a lake.

Our democracy is working fine. Had Coeur Alaska followed the letter and spirit of the people's law, their mine might be in operation today and hundreds of locals would be working in their employ. Instead, Coeur Alaska decided to risk re-interpreting the Clean Water Act to dump 4.5 million tons of chemically processed mine waste into a freshwater alpine lake. That is why its employees are not working today.

Kevin Hood


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