Alaska editorial: EPA report no cause for alarm

Posted: Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Alaska regularly gets top billing when the Environmental Protection Agency releases results of its national Toxic Release Inventory Report.

Our state is a top producer of toxic materials.

It doesn't sound good, but it's no cause for alarm.

Alaska and Nevada, both big mining states, regularly top the annual list, which details toxic chemicals released to the air, land, and waterways, or injected deep into the ground or stored on sites as waste.

Alaska's Red Dog Mine is the largest zinc mine in the world and regularly tops the list - by a wide margin - of all toxic producers on the list. Greens Creek Mine also regularly lands in the top 10 nationwide.

They move ore loaded with lead and other toxins from one place to another. They dig, therefore, according to the toxics report, they release pollutants.

The report is a good thing, but it needs to be fully understood by Alaskans and considered in context.

Our state's ranking on this list is a testament to the magnitude of work done in this state. The ranking also speaks to the importance of permitting and the environmental regulations necessary to do business here.

The work completed and the regulations and oversight required are carried out on a mammoth scale compared to any other state in the country.

The toxics on the EPA's annual list are managed and their potential negative effects mitigated. Tons of toxics, tons of regulations, tons of management and bureaucracy.

The list is an annual reminder of the importance of environmental regulations and oversight for Alaska, and a reminder of the sensitive nature and high cost of doing business here.

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