Regulate Canadian, Not American Metals Mine, Murkowski Says – by Alan Neuhauser (U.S. News and World Report – August 14, 2014)

The Alaska senator seeks greater environmental enforcement at a Canadian metals mine, but opposes regs at a similar mine in Alaska.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has called for greater oversight of a Canadian metals mine – even as she lambastes federal regulation of a similar proposed mining project in Alaska.

“It’s an irony, because the risks associated with Pebble Mine are precisely those that we have seen unfolding before our eyes over the past week in British Columbia,” says Joel Reynolds, western director and senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “That is to say, a major containment dam failure resulting in significant off-site contamination in salmon habitats.”

Last week, a dam containing the wastewater pond for Canada’s open-pit Mount Polley mine ruptured, sending millions of gallons of potentially contaminated water spilling into a river along the Alaska border (Canadian officials lifted a ban on drinking tap water Tuesday). Later that week, Murkowski dashed off a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to impress upon Canadian leaders “the potential impacts that large-scale mining in Canada could hold” for the state’s fishing and tourism industries, as well as its indigenous population.

“The tailings pond breach at Mount Polley on August 4 has renewed the specter of environmental impacts from large-scale hardrock [sic] mineral developments in Canada that are located near transboundary rivers,” Murkowski wrote. “I therefore urge you to accelerate your work with your Canadian counterparts to confirm that new mining activities are subject to proper review and continued oversight.”

Just three weeks earlier, however the senator was railing against federal environmental oversight of the controversial proposed Pebble Mine, a strikingly similar waterfront open-pit metals mining operation – but instead on the Alaskan side of the border.

“There’s a pretty obvious disconnect between her position as far as Canada goes, and her position as far as Alaska goes,” Reynolds says. “On the one hand, she is encouraging federal oversight of mining in Canada, on the other hand, she has been consistently opposing federal oversight of mining in Alaska.”

Murkowski was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Yet in a statement last month, the senator declared that “the EPA is setting a precedent that strips Alaska and all Alaskans of the ability to make decisions on how to develop a healthy economy on their lands. This is a blueprint that will be used across the country to stop economic development.”

Murkowski, like many of her Republican colleagues, has regularly opposed certain EPA environmental protections. In June, she asserted that the agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan – the first federal action to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants – would threaten the reliability of the energy grid.

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