Healthy and General

Activists call out federal agencies for lack of public input

3 min read

Environmental activists claim that government agencies are failing to allow the public to weigh in on a controversial mining project near Haines. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is asking residents to pressure federal agencies to open up the decision-making process surrounding the Palmer Project to allow public feedback. KHNS’ Mike Swasey talked with the council’s Upper Lynn Canal organizer Shannon Donahue about the effort.

SwaseyShannon Donohue with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, thank you for joining us today. Last week, I spoke with Haines Borough Manager, Annette Kreitzer about whether the Haines assembly could choose to take a stance on the proposed Palmer mining Project near Klukwan, she said they could. 

Your organization is advising people to contact the EPA and Bureau of Land Management in an effort to get them to open up the permitting process to the public. I mistakenly categorized your efforts as an attempt to stop the project at a federal level. Would you please correct me?

Donahue – Thank you, I really appreciate that. The actions that SEACC has that are targeting federal agencies are really just asking the agencies to do their jobs. Just to do the very bare minimum in terms of the public process that is required for these actions. 

SwaseySo at this point, Manager Kreitzer said that there is a public process and you’re saying that that’s not necessarily the case. 

Donahue – In terms of manager Kreitzer’s statement, she was referring to a waste management permit, which is essentially just a state permit that allows the Palmer Project to discharge their wastewater. They’re attempting to discharge their wastewater into the ground in a location where it would wind up in the tributaries of the Chilkat River, Glacier Creek, Hangover Creek, Waterfall Creek, right in that area. The Department of Environmental Conservation has decided to fold in Constantine’s new waste management discharge system proposal into a 2019 permit. 

The 2019 permit was an illegal permit that was remanded in the first place, it’s not protective of the salmon streams, it’s not protective of our clean water. And it’s actually not even the right permit for this situation. And so because the Department of Environmental Conservation isn’t doing their job to protect our water, SEACC is asking the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, to step in and do due diligence to make sure that DEC is doing their job under the Clean Water Act.

SwaseyYou’re also asking people to contact the Bureau of Land Management. It looks like Constantine is trying to do some underground exploration and needs a right of way, from BLM. Tell us a little bit more about that process.

Donahue – Yeah, and so there are a few different actions going on with the BLM that should require a public process, but the BLM is not enforcing them. The Palmer Project is trying to access federal claims, and in order to do that, in a couple of different ways, they need to apply for a right-of-way from the Bureau of Land Management. One of those is for their spur road to the exploration site. And the other one is for the tunnel that they are proposing to dig for underground exploration next year. And so the Bureau of Land Management needs to require Constantine to apply for a right of way. And that would also involve a public process. 

And so it would create an opportunity for everybody, you know, regardless of their stance on the Palmer Project to weigh in. It means that people who have concerns about the project can go on the record, list those concerns, have them addressed (and) people who support the project can go on the record and say what they support about the project. And it makes for a better, more responsible project if you actually follow these public processes. It’s even a good thing for Constantine and DOWA because it would help to build trust and transparency in the project.

SwaseyShannon Donohue with Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, thanks so much for explaining how we can participate in making the process more public. I appreciate it.

Donahue – Thank you. I really appreciate you having me on.

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