SEACC is made up of regular people

Posted: Monday, June 18, 2007

It is popular around Juneau to bash Southeast Alaska Conservation Council for "opposing development." The latest is the effort by some members of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce to throw SEACC out of the chamber because of the Kensington Mine lawsuit. But they will serve the community better if they take a good hard look at reality.

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SEACC is regularly smeared through newspaper ads by Coeur Alaska who simultaneously and sanctimoniously claims to want to work with environmental groups. There is a regular and loud clamor from individuals and pro-development groups, too, all demonizing "SEACC's extreme environmentalists standing in the way of progress." But that is not the reality.

The reality is that SEACC is made up of your Southeast Alaska neighbors, regular people, and many, like me, operate businesses in Juneau themselves. Coeur Alaska and the Kensington Mine developers are solely responsible for their own problems. The finger of blame for any economic damage to our area must point directly at Coeur's managers. Coeur made a calculated management decision to circumvent federal laws and were unfortunately encouraged by the friendly federal agency which illegally permitted the plans against the law. But the law is the law, and the courts see things differently. SEACC merely blew the whistle.

What is ironic, and surely galling to Kensington, is Coeur already had fully legal permits for tailings disposal in hand when it opted to save money by trying to circumvent the law - then let its original permits lapse - a calculated gamble which now haunts them. Responsible managers should be standing tall before their board of directors for that faux pas.

Incidentally, the particular law Coeur seeks to circumvent is the Clean Water Act, signed into law by a Republican president, Richard Nixon, in 1972 as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, which, after amendments, became the Clean Water Act. Coeur now asks for a local exception to the law - a de facto admission of its errors.

Sure, Coeur's managers would like to blame someone else for their own mistakes, but the Juneau Chamber of Commerce should be careful who they chastise on Coeur's behalf. The chamber's board members behind this idea should be ashamed of themselves.

Erik Lie-Nielsen

SEACC board member


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