Initiative sponsors seek to reverse Murkowski environmental decisions

Measures seek to undo ex-governor's acts that favor mine industry

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2007

ANCHORAGE - A series of voter initiatives certified this week seeks to strike down state environmental legislation that favors the mining industry.

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Sponsors of the initiatives are hoping to get rid of two of the most unpopular environmental acts by former Gov. Frank Murkowski's administration.

One initiative would move the biologists in charge of approving development projects in fish habitats to the Department of Fish and Game.

In 2003, Murkowski moved the biologists to the Department of Natural Resources, which generally works toward development, saying they were unnecessarily delaying permits.

Another initiative seeks to ban large mines or large sewage treatment plants from discharging pollution into any water used by fish.

In 2005, the Murkowski administration moved to change the state's long-time ban on these so-called mixing zones in spawning areas by allowing them on a case-by-case basis.

A final decision has not been made on the fate of the ban because the federal Environmental Protection Agency hasn't approved the Murkowski administration changes.

The initiative sponsors all oppose the massive Pebble copper and gold prospect in southwest Alaska.

They need 23,831 signatures from voters across the state in time to get the proposed laws on next year's ballot.

The mining industry and other business groups have defended the Murkowski-era decisions, saying they are good for development.

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