Dunleavy asks for a do-over on Pebble Mine/Board of Education punts on sports regs singling out trans girls
Good afternoon, Alaska. It’s Wednesday.
In this edition: Today, long-time Pebble Mine supporter Gov. Mike Dunleavy took the extraordinarily unusual route of directly asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the EPA’s veto of the controversial mine project. While it’s focused on claims that it would clamp down development on neighboring state land, it would take the nail out of the coffin on Pebble Mine. Meanwhile, today, the Board of Education decided to delay a decision on proposed regulations that would ban transgender girls from playing girls’ sports in high school. It’s an unexpected move but likely a formality, as the board has already endorsed the idea.
Current mood: 🙄
Dunleavy asks for a do-over on Pebble Mine
In a move immediately labeled as a publicity stunt by opponents, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his administration today filed a motion directly with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark veto of the controversial Pebble Mine project.
The EPA delivered its veto—hailed as a “nail in the coffin” for the beleaguered mine project—earlier this year to protect the Bristol Bay salmon fishery. The decision found the discharges from the mine would have “unacceptable adverse effects” on salmon habitats in the “globally significant ecological and cultural resource” that is the Bristol Bay watershed.
The decision not only vetoed the Pebble Mine but preemptively barred any substantially similar mines from being developed with a 309-square-mile area surrounding the mine’s proposed site. That prohibition is what Dunleavy and Attorney General Treg Taylor are zeroing in on with their complaint, arguing it preempts the state’s ability to sanction a mine on state land in the area (the decision applies explicitly to mines developing the Pebble deposit).
Direct appeals to the Supreme Court are incredibly unusual, a point Taylor acknowledged in a news release announcing the filing, but argues “it’s appropriate given the extraordinary decision being challenged.”
The response: A legal observer tracking the legal battle over Pebble Mine expressed general bewilderment about the Dunleavy administration’s actions, suggesting it would be nothing more than another meritless waste of money by the Dunleavy’s Department of Law. The Bristol Bay Defense Fund—a coalition of groups, tribes and businesses opposing the mine—called the move a “publicity stunt.”
“The lawsuit is legally and factually unjustified–and is little more than a publicity stunt filed on behalf of an unscrupulous mining company, Pebble Limited Partnership, that has repeatedly misrepresented its record and misled regulators, its investors, Congress, and the general public. The EPA’s authority to protect Bristol Bay under the Clean Water Act stands on an extensive and robust scientific and technical record that spans two decades and three presidential administrations,” said the group in a prepared statement. “Alaskans and people across the country overwhelmingly support EPA’s action to protect Bristol Bay, and do not support the Pebble Mine.”
The background: While the mine had been broadly unpopular with Alaskans, Dunleavy has persistently supported Pebble Mine throughout his time in office. He quietly led an effort to personally lobby former President Donald Trump into approving the mine—including passing off as his own letters written by the company pursuing Pebble Mine. That effort might have been successful until Republican sportsmen, including Donald Trump Jr. And Tucker Carlson, came to the mine’s defense, and the Trump administration reversed course, protecting the mine.
It’s important to note that the motion doesn’t ask for an amended decision to preserve the claimed state concerns but a wholesale reversal that, if accepted, would breathe new life into the project.
Also worth pointing out: The filing shows that the Dunleavy administration has again hired conservative Trump-aligned law firm Consovoy McCarthy to represent it. The administration’s work with the firm was the focus of much consternation in the Legislature after being hired on a $600-an-hour contract in 2019 as part of the state’s fight with public sector unions. Legislators took an unusual step of reworking the state’s budget to block the spending, but are still uncertain just how much money was spent on the foray.
What’s next: As things tend to go with the U.S. Supreme Court, the timeline for the next steps or decisions on the motion is not entirely clear, but the federal government has the right to reply to the motion in the next 60 days.
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Board of Education punts on sports regs singling out trans girls
With a board filled with members appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, it seemed like today’s meeting of the Board of Education to decide the fate of regulations to bar trans girls from playing in girls’ high school sports was a done deal. After all, the board had already approved a resolution endorsing the idea.
Instead, following several hours of public testimony that was largely against the proposal and many more hours in a closed-door executive session meeting with state lawyers, the Board of Education has officially postponed a decision.
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