There are existing federal and state laws that prohibit discharges and other activities that would adversely affect salmon and human health. State water quality standards specifically prohibit discharges and other activities that could cause adverse effects on aquatic life, including salmon. The standards also protect water quality for drinking water use.
In the event that new science suggests that water quality standards need to be changed to fully protect salmon, human health, or other uses, the standards must be modified so that they are fully protective. State water quality standards must be reviewed at least every three years to ensure they stay current.
The Ballot Measure’s language is general and less precise than language used in current federal and state law. For example, it uses but does not define terms such as “releases” or “discharges.” In contrast, these terms are specifically defined within the existing body of water quality law. The initiative’s imprecise terminology leaves room for differing interpretations that will likely have to be resolved by the courts. The Alaska Supreme Court has already had to rule that the initiative’s use of the term “effect” should be interpreted as meaning “adversely affect.”
Unlike existing laws and regulations, the Ballot Measure does not address matters such as how the law is to be applied or the penalties for violating the law.
The Ballot Measure appears to exempt existing large-scale metallic mines that have all their permits. However, existing mines will likely need changes to their permits to accommodate future changes in their operations. All future changes in facilities or operations at existing mines would fall under the initiative.
This Ballot Measure would apply to all new large-scale metallic mines (disturbing over 640 acres), not just the proposed Pebble mine.
Additional Links below:
How State Laws are Changed
Current State Regulation of Large Mines
Ballot Measure #4 Effects on Mining Regulation
Below is the official language of the initiative, along with the official statements in support and opposition:
- Full four-page Text of 07WTR3 Initiative
- Statement in Support of 07WTR3 Initiative
- Statement in Opposition to 07WTR3 Initiative
The bottom line - it replaces certainty with uncertainty and may turn out to be a welfare program for lawyers.
Vote NO on Ballot Measure 4 on August 26th.