Dozen Senators Call on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Finish Permitting of Kensington Mine
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mark
Begich, D-Alaska, on Monday sent two letters to the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers urging the agency to quickly complete permitting of the
Kensington gold mine in Southeast Alaska.
The first letter detailed the senators’ concerns with recent
efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to intercede in the
permitting of the mine, despite a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that
the Corps was the proper permitting agency.
“After nearly two decades of review and legal challenges, it’s
time to respect the Supreme Court’s decision and allow this important
economic project to move forward,” Murkowski said.
The high court ruled in June that Coeur Alaska had a valid 404
permit from the Corps to dispose of tailings from its Kensington mine
in Lower Slate Lake. Despite the court’s ruling, the EPA has insisted
the Corps re-evaluate the tailings disposal plan for less
environmentally sound alternatives.
“The Army Corps of Engineers now has all the information it needs
to finalize the permit for this vital mine in Southeast Alaska,” Begich
stated. “Residents of the region have been waiting long enough for the
300 good jobs the Kensington Mine will produce. Now that the U.S.
Supreme Court has acted, let’s get to work developing this project. I’m
confident the Army Corps will do the right thing and issue the final
permit within weeks.”
The Murkowski-Begich letter included detailed legal analysis
refuting the EPA’s arguments and pointing out factual errors in the
agency’s case, including the senators’ opinion that no substantially
new or significant information on the mine has surfaced to prompt
“Because we care about the environment and also the people of
Alaska, we found it profoundly distressing to have the EPA suggest yet
another tailings disposal option in its letter of July 14, 2009 to you,
especially in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision which
specifically recognized the thorough review of alternatives undertaken
in the permitting process leading to the Lower Slate Lake Corps 404
tailings permit,” Murkowski and Begich wrote in the letter to the
“EPA is advocating for a tailings disposal option that is
demonstrably worse for the environment in an effort to assert their
jurisdiction,” Murkowski said. “I’m particularly concerned with what
appears to be an attempt by EPA to circumvent the Supreme Court, which
should have the final word.”
A second letter, signed by Murkowski and Begich along with 10
Senate colleagues, similarly called on the Corps to reject any further
delay and raised concerns about the potential precedent of allowing EPA
to challenge Corps-issued permits.
“We have signed this letter because of the far-reaching
implications that decisions related to Kensington Mine could have – not
just in Alaska, but throughout the United States. At the heart of the
debate is whether a project that has complied with all environmental
laws, that has gone out of its way to institute training and local hire
of Native Americans, and has withstood years of legal challenge and won
in the Supreme Court, can now be killed through additional bureaucratic
delays,” the 12 senators wrote.
The letter was signed by Sens. Murkowski; Begich; James Risch,
R-Idaho; Sam Brownback, R-Kansas; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; James Inhofe,
R-Oklahoma; John Barrasso, R-Wyoming; Bob Bennett, R-Utah; Mike Enzi,
R-Wyoming; John Thune, R-South Dakota; Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii; and
Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.
All that is needed to allow work to resume at the mine is for the
Corps to modify an existing construction time period and correct minor
discrepancies to the previously authorized permit and plans.
Kensington mine is expected to create more than 300 jobs and
provide millions of dollars in taxes and other revenue to the Juneau
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