As we wait with anticipation for the EPA’s 404(c) Final Determination on Pebble mine later this month, Inletkeeper continues to ask questions about the Donlin Gold mine.
The Donlin Gold mine would be a massive open-pit complex next to the Kuskokwim River in southwest Alaska and it presents sweeping risks to wild salmon habitat stretching from the west side of Cook Inlet, through the Susitna Valley drainage, and into the Kuskokwim watershed.
One of the first questions we had about this project was whether the state of Alaska can permit the gas pipeline Right-of-Way (ROW) without considering the impacts of the whole project first.
After reviewing the state of Alaska’s second ROW decision for the Donlin natural gas pipeline in July 2021, Inletkeeper decided the answer was clearly “no”. In September 2021, Inletkeeper joined the sovereign nations of Orutsararmiut Native Council, Native Village of Eek, Native Village of Kwigillingok, and Chevak Native Village in a lawsuit filed in state court by Earthjustice. The lawsuit includes two constitutional claims. The first is that the Alaska Department of Natural Resources is required to look at the impacts of the whole project, including the mine itself, before issuing the ROW lease for the pipeline. The second challenges a state leasing law that tries to limit judicial review in ROW cases to individuals with a “direct financial interest affected by the lease.”
On January 11th, Earthjustice went in front of Judge Zeman to present oral arguments. Now we wait for the judge’s decision. If we prevail, it will set a vital precedent whereby state agencies will no longer be able to piecemeal their development decisions, but instead, will be required to take a hard look at all impacts likely to flow from entire projects, similar to the cumulative effects analysis required under federal law.
This is just one of the consequential outcomes that might occur as we seek answers to our questions about the Donlin Gold mine.
With the lack of industry interest in oil & gas leases in Cook Inlet in December, we now want to know how the huge draw of natural gas to power the mine will affect natural gas prices for residential users in Cook Inlet.
What questions do you have about the Donlin Gold mine? We’ll do our best to get answers to ensure our natural resources are being managed for the best interests of all Alaskans.
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