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Assembly Considers Resolution in Response to EPA's W.Va. Mining Permit Revocation

Fairbanks, AK - The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly will consider a resolution Thursday that could prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from retroactively revoking permits within the Borough.  Sponsors are responding to the EPA’s decision this spring to revoke a permit for a controversial coal mining project in West Virginia.

In 2007, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit to Arch Coal, Incorporated for a West Virginia mountaintop coal mining project.  The company used dynamite to blow the top off a mountain to reveal a coal seam below.  In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency cited concerns over water quality and revoked the permit.  Arch Coal challenged the revocation in district court and won.  But that decision was overturned by the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC last April.

Assemblyman Karl Kassel says he doesn’t want to see similar action taken in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.  “We decided it was appropriate to make an official comment because of the strength of the mining industry in Alaska and all the exploration that they are doing," says Kassel.  "This is something that could potentially come into play in the future for us and we felt we should take a proactive approach to make sure it doesn’t happen here to the best of our ability.”

Kassel and Presiding Officer Diane Hutchison are sponsoring a resolution that asks the State congressional delegation and President Barack Obama not to allow the EPA to retroactively revoke development permits.
“Once the EPA makes a decision I think they should be obligated to stick with the decision that they make," says Kassel.  "and not retroactively go back and revoke a permit.  That’s really the topic here.”

The resolution does not address the technical aspects of mining projects.  Kassel says he doesn’t have any reason to believe the EPA plans to revoke current permits for local mining and development projects. He says he hasn’t yet contacted members of the congressional delegation about the resolution.