Streamlining the public out of the process

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2003

I remember the meetings on establishing the Juneau Large Mine Ordinance. It was contentious, argumentative, and long process. The meetings involved many members of the community who spent considerable time on public testimony and discussions. It was also the beginnings of what I see as intolerance of controversial subjects that divide our community.

Not that Juneau was harmonious prior to this ordinance, but to me it did seem to be more tolerant of dissent. There was no doubt the Large Mine Ordinance divided the community. The final document was a compromise between those who wanted more restrictions and those who did not want any additional requirements for large-scale mining operations. What we all wanted whether it be more restrictions or less restrictions was a voice in the process. A voice that would be heard outside of the federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process as an expression of what the community wanted to see in the development of a large-scale mine.

This was a unifying theme throughout the development of the Large Mine Ordinance. It is a great disappointment and a disservice that the Juneau Assembly now finds the mining ordinance to be redundant. The recent acceptance of amendments to the Large Mine Ordinance will diminish public participation and the community's understanding of the impacts from mining and associated support operations. It will not allow the community to participate with our planning officials on developing a comprehensive approach to mitigating the impacts of large-scale mining. We now must rely on the goodness of government to decide what's best and on the federal EIS process that looks only at environmental impacts and not the social costs. This so-called "stream-lined" process is our future. And this future wants little from the public.

Chris Kent


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