Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Request for Inclusion of indigenous peoples and Tribes in Federal Ocean Policy

December 10, 2010

Disclaimer: This document is prepared by Center for Water Advocacy and Alaska’s Big Village Network for Alaska’s indigenous peoples, Traditional Councils and Alaska Tribal Governments to be included in the process leading to policy decisions that impacts our future generations.------------------------------------------------------------------------

Honorable Secretaries of the United States Departments of Commerce, Interior, Defense, and Homeland Security:

Request for Inclusion
Ocean Policy funding: Regional Ocean Partnership development.
Re: Grant Notice of Federal Funding Opportunity; Number NOAA-NOS-CSC-2011-2002721 posted September 16, 2010; CFDA Number: 11.473; offered by the Department of Commerce

Thank you for your commitment to protect our vital water and ocean resources, ecosystems and peoples.

Alaska's Big Village Network offers this letter to Tribal Governments, indigenous peoples and tribal communities in all coastal regions of the United States; particulary in Alaska and the Arctic; whom have co-existed with all elements of the Earth since time immemorial.

The ocean is critical to all human beings on Earth and is important locally, nationally and internationally for the future freedoms of all peoples, especially Arctic inhabitants. As indigenous stewards of the oceans for tens of thousands of years, traditional and modern Tribal governments and tribal communities must be included in NOAA's Regional Ocean Partnership Funding Programs (ROPFP); particularly, as vital indigenous science and traditional ecological knowledge is critical in the Areas of Special Emphasis as identified in the Ocean Policy Task Force July 2010 final report. The ROPFP must also be directed to support and assist tribal governance and tribal community planning objectives in the Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning framework to become active partners in the Alaska Regional Ocean Partnership.

Alaska Tribal Governments and Alaskan tribal communities are necessary and essential to address coordination and collaboration for the profound global matters facing our ocean and to build capacity for the peace and security of mankind. The indigenous peoples of the Arctic have traditional cultural resiliency and adaptation methods that can reduce long-term cost of implementing national climate adaptation strategies; and the Arctic indigenous peoples can perpetuate protection, conservation and management of Large Marine Ecosystems beyond Arctic/Alaska boundaries of the CSMP area. The historic use of cultural resources, inter-disciplinary indigenous science, traditional ecological knowledge, customary and traditional and modern life ways of hunting, fishing, gathering, commerce, and navigation are critical to the interest of the Nation and our maritime heritage.

As witnesses to the significant harm to health of humans and much of the living creatures of Prince William Sound; and ongoing deaths and cascading environmental decline from Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in the Gulf of Alaska in 1989, it is critically important to involve all communities in every process of industrial activities in our oceans. We continue to support implementing the precautionary principle in a comprehensive ocean policy within the CSMP framework. Not only are the communities the first responders to international and local disasters, but they are integral to the stewardship of all resources for future generations. Indigenous Peoples and tribal communities in the Arctic are disproportionately impacted by industrial activities in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea. Please refer to a recent Department of Interior Minerals Management Service OCS study: “Three Decades of Research on Socioeconomic Effects Related to Offshore Petroleum Development in Coastal Alaska.”

Food Security is essential for Arctic/Alaska indigenous peoples, economic sustainability, and national interest. The living resources and biodiversity of the Arctic/Alaska region (fisheries, marine mammals, peoples, flora and fauna) are of paramount to indigenous science, culture, and identity.

Ecosystem Based Management with maximum Tribal participation in planning will break the frontiers of interdisciplinary science and community based participatory research to provide communities with tools to protect our oceans, coasts and inland waters. The indigenous peoples who have inhabited the Arctic since time immemorial carry the wisdom and expertise to maintain, protect and honor the integrity of the ecosystems to provide customary and traditional and commercial resources today. Historically, the indigenous maritime heritage of the Alaska/Arctic area allowed forefathers of the United States to conduct international trade and commerce.

We support indigenous peoples’ Traditional Ecological Knowledge as best available science. Traditional Ecological Knowledge is an important foundational element in the ecosystem-based management principle for all planning efforts. Indigenous Science is an important pillar for resilient coastal communities that can adapt to impacts of hazards in climate change.

We support local, national, and international efforts to improve the structure of the policy coordination of the National Ocean Council. Due to the cultural and economic significance of fisheries, marine mammals, and birds; as well as the geographic size of Alaska’s coastline and oceans, we ask that you increase participation of Alaska's Tribal Governments in the National Ocean Council. We strongly support education and training initiatives for Alaska Tribal Governments and Arctic communities in National Policy.

Coastal Zone Management

Pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (16 USC 1482) (CZMA), Federal agencies have a government-to-government responsibility to consult with federally recognized Indian Tribes in areas where the CZMA is in effect. Although, the CZMA facilitates consultation by State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs) in the exercise of their responsibilities pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and the Archaeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) including in matters that are protective of historic properties, it does not include consultation with Tribes and their Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs) or, otherwise, provide significant protection to tribes.

Although, in 1992, the NHPA was amended to include tribes, the CZMA does not address the legal rights or concerns of tribes regarding historic properties and the CZMA has not been updated to be compliant with the Presidential Memoranda and Executive Orders that mandate federal governmental agencies to conduct meaningful tribal consultation in support of the government to government relationship. Annually, for federal consistency, federal agencies have a duty to examine the implementation of the CZMA. The Task Force should therefore call on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA fisheries) and other federal fisheries agencies to establish meaningful tribal consultation as an integral component of their implementation of the CZMA and become wholly compliant with the consultation process.

Executive Orders:

It is mandatory that standing Executive Orders to be followed by federal agencies to fairly include federally recognized tribes and tribal communities in the Arctic/Alaska region and in all other planning regions when funding Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning.

Executive Order--Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes (July 19, 2010)
Executive Order 13175-- Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments
Executive Order 12898- Environmental Justice

Federal Trust Obligation

The national ocean policy must implement significant and meaningful consultation with tribal governments and tribal communities in the protection of ocean and coastal resources including water rights, sustainable land practices, and management actions, development of watershed management plans and establishment of watershed management councils. Too often federal agencies fail to provide for consultation and partnership with tribes who are impacted by federal and state agency management actions regarding ocean and coastal resources.

The Ocean Policy should be consistent with Section 1B of President Obama’s Directive of June 12, 2009 which created the Task Force and which states that “The framework should also address specific recommendations to improve coordination and collaboration among Federal, State, Tribal, and local authorities, including regional governance structures.”

We support the protection of Arctic Indigenous Peoples cultural and subsistence resources in all oceans. We support international collaborations to maintain the integrity of migratory animal treaties for customary and traditional use. We support development of Arctic cultural and situational policy frameworks to address resiliency and adaptation to major climate change matters facing planet Earth.

The indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic/Alaska region and their traditional and modern governments must be included at every level of planning and management by the National Ocean Commission; and must be included for full funding in Marine Spatial Planning and inclusion in Regional Ocean Partnerships for the Arctic/Alaska planning region.

Indigenous Peoples and Tribal Communities are essential to Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning efforts.

“Data and model products have no value unless they are used. They can only be used if they can be easily discovered, acquired and understood in a timely manner to those who wish to apply them to practical issues such as flood forecasting, water availability modeling, and ecological flows, as inputs to decision-making. The communication and delivery of data and information to such end users is back-bone to a beneficial integrated system.” Page 190: Integrating Multiscale Observations of U.S. Waters by National Research Council of the National Academies; 2008.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Environmental Justice in Alaska- Health Risks of Permitted Pollution Ignored:

Alaska- Health Risks of Permitted Pollution Ignored:
Indigenous Peoples left behind

To: National Environmental Justice Advisory Commission

From: Nikos Pastos & Carl Wassilie
Alaska's Big Village Network

Environmental Justice principles as outlined in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s strategic goals must be formally included in all permitting processes in Alaska. The United States of America has a federal trust obligation to Tribal governments and their peoples. The indigenous peoples of Alaska are citizens with a distinct historical and political relationship with the United States of America. EPA has a mission that can equitably protect and enhance environmental justice concerns in tribal communities that have suffered so many tangible adverse impacts from fast track, hasty environmental permitting. A good place to start would be observing proper notification protocols and consultation including language and cultural accommodation based on EPA’s environmental justice policy, and the Executive Order on environmental justice (EO 12898).

In order for any permit application to move forward in which the ecosystem, environment and (subsistence) living cultural resources of Tribal Governments and indigenous peoples could be impacted; there must be a formal review in a democratic process (tribal governments). Communication is a matter of utmost significance when permitted activities have potential impacts to local food security; and the potential to disrupt and destroy customary and traditional cultural life ways of hunting, gathering, fishing, harvesting, commerce and navigation.

Given the historic cultural degradation of America's First Peoples from permitted and unpermitted industrial development activities; a hard look from the articulated goals of EPA Environmental Justice policies must be enacted in real and tangible practices to have any credibility with indigenous peoples in modernity. Furthermore, resources must be allocated to Tribal Governments for building capacity to address the technical, legal and general communications to Tribal populations regarding all environmental permitting processes.

The transfer of permitting primacy by the United States of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) to the proposed State of Alaska Pollution Discharge Elimination System (APDES) is legally questionable due to a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Region 10 EPA and the State of Alaska Department of Conservation. The State of Alaska does not have regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with Tribal officials in development of State policy that has profound tribal implications to the environment and health of indigenous peoples and tribal citizens. The State of Alaska has not substantively demonstrated the capacity to actually exercise oversight and compliance of simple reporting requirements of the Clean Water Drinking Act in villages of Alaska. How could tribal peoples and all other citizens have confidence or assurance that minimal federal standards for waste water discharges from mineral extraction, (oil, gas, mining) , timber industries, seafood processing industries, municipalities are properly monitored by a quasi-permitting program of the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation?
No consultation process has yet been developed to adequately address the adverse, disproportionate, cumulative impacts of thousands of permitted and pending industrial developments in Alaska that impact indigenous peoples human rights. Language translations are needed in areas and populations where significant percentages of the people speak indigenous language first and very limited English second. All health risks of permitted pollution are miscalculated; disproportionately impacting indigenous peoples and tribal citizens in Alaska when disregarding bioaccumulation, cumulative toxic risks and fish and wild food consumption rates and patterns.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Three Month Memorial of Oil Addiction

America's Addiction to Oil

July 20, 2010
Anchorage, AK
Alaska BP Headquarters
Oil Addicts Anonymous and Alaska's Big Village Network gathered with Alaska citizens at Alaska's BP Headquarters to protest the US Congress's addiction to oil-lobbying money by Big Oil. The action was in solidarity with a broad coalition of Gulf of Mexico residents, public interest, faith, environmental and human rights groups in Washington, DC. Three months after British Petroleum's Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon's toxic gusher, hundreds of citizens gathered in Washington, DC, to tell Congress to recognize; and to end their dirty oil addiction in order to move toward a just renewable energy future.
BP spent $1.72 million lobbying in the second quarter from April to June of 2010, while Shell Oil increased lobbying spending by almost 75% from the first quarter of 2010 to fuel Congress's oil addiction at $4.05 million in the second quarter. [ www.huffingtonpost.com/news/bp-oil-spill ]
As with all major addictions, it will take local, national and international community efforts to end Congress's oil addiction. We are asking energy legislation that protects peoples, fisheries, communities and the planet Earth.
Josh of Oil Addicts Anonymous says, "BP is one of the most obvious oil addicts around, and their addiction is hurting everyone. Especially, with the oil spill from Deepwater Horizon rig. Oil Addicts Anonymous supports BP's efforts to end their addiction by capping more wells. We would like to congratulate BP on attempting to cap the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. It's a step in the right direction for an oil addict, but there are many more wells in Alaska and around the world that could threaten to do more community damage and harm, so we are asking BP to cap more of their wells and end their oil addiction."
Alaska's Big Village Network is concerned about the massive increase in Shell Oil's lobbying efforts to drill in the Arctic Ocean, where the interest of the nation should be focused on protecting and enhancing Alaska's fisheries and local indigenous peoples in the interest of regional, national, global and local food security. Particularly, with the huge chemical poisoning of nearly half of America's fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Carl, Yup'iaq biologist, explains, "western scientist are only beginning to understand the significance of the Arctic to biological production in Northern regions and planet Earth. The last of the great wild salmon fisheries on planet Earth depend on the Arctic and sub-arctic ocean nutrient cycles. As America's fishery habitat dwindles, why should Alaskans let Big Oil threaten our fish, people, indigenous cultures, and national security for foriegn markets and a few short term jobs?"

Thursday, July 15, 2010


By Carl Wassilie and Nikos Pastos

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed a rule under the Clean Air Act to limit mercury air emissions from gold mines. While EPA is taking a positive step in moving to regulate mercury, the proposed rule does not go far enough to protect all Alaskans, including indigenous peoples’ customary and traditional lifeways, and Alaska’s water, wildlife, cultural resources and ecosystems from mercury.

This rulemaking is important to Alaska and Alaskans because of the Donlin Creek Mine Project. There is mercury associated with the gold ore at the proposed Donlin Creek Mine. This means that mining and milling can release significant amounts of mercury. Based on conservative estimates of how much mercury is in the ore at Donlin Creek, if uncontrolled, the mine will process each year ore that will contain over 20 tons of mercury. Some of this will end up in tailings, some will be captured in pollution control devices and some will be emitted to the atmosphere. Under the proposed EPA rule the mine could be permitted to emit over 3200 pounds of mercury per year just from ore pre-treatment processes, and more from other parts of the milling operation.

This is significant, especially given that 2008 Toxic Release Inventory data from the EPA indicates that only 71 pounds of mercury was emitted in Alaska that year. That means that under the proposed rule, the Donlin Creek Mine would be permitted to increase mercury air emissions in Alaska by a whopping 4,500%.

Is the EPA’s proposed limit, which is supposed to protect people and the environment from this hazardous pollutant, really protective when it allows 4,500% more mercury to enter the environment from this single source? The clear answer is “no”; the rule needs to be stronger.

Additionally, the EPA rule does not impose limits on mercury emitted from “fugitive sources” at mines, which include tailings ponds and waste rock piles. These fugitive emissions of mercury can be taken up into the atmosphere and travel for many miles. A recent study done at two Nevada gold mines indicate that nearly 20% of the total mercury may come from fugitive sources, depending on conditions.

The state and EPA are already concerned about mercury in Alaska; agencies are planning a conference in October to try to get a handle on mercury deposition and risk in the state—the Quicksilver Conference. Donlin represents the first major industrial mercury source in Alaska, and regulation of how mercury is managed at this mine is critical for assessing the associated risk.

The Donlin Creek LLC is well aware of the potential impacts to the region and Alaska from mercury emissions from its mining operations. The company has publically stated that it can capture 98% of the point source mercury emissions. However, even with emissions controls that capture 98% of mercury emissions, the mine could still emit nearly 1,000 pounds of mercury per year, over 1,000 % increase above current mercury air emissions in Alaska.

This brings up more questions: what will the mine will do with the mercury that is captured—an incredible 20-40 tons per year? How can it be stored safely on the shores of the Kuskokwim River and safely transported off-site? What are the cummulative health impacts of historic mercury and gold mines along with the current global fallout from foreign industrial resources? Who will be left with the mess? These are just a few questions that the EPA rule does not touch.

The implications of such a weak rule are clear: the EPA has failed in its duty to craft a rule that limits emissions and protects people and the environment. And unfortunately, those of us with families and friends living in the Kuskokwim River watershed will again be faced with mercury in our lakes, rivers, fish, birds and lands.

Please write to the EPA and ask them to make a rule that is protective of people and the environment. You can submit comments to a-and-rDocket@epa.gov, Attend Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0239. For more information on the proposed rule, visit: http://www.epa.gov/mercury/

Nikos Pastos is a social scientist from Anchorage. He conducts research on technological disasters.

Carl Wassilie is a Yupiaq biologist. He is based in Anchorage.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

From the Ground: BP Censoring Media, Destroying Evidence

Written by Riki Ott, Marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor
Posted: June 11, 2010 09:18 AM

From the Ground: BP Censoring Media, Destroying Evidence

Orange Beach, Alabama -- While President Obama insists that the federal government is firmly in control of the response to BP's spill in the Gulf, people in coastal communities where I visited last week in Louisiana and Alabama know an inconvenient truth: BP -- not our president -- controls the response. In fact, people on the ground say things are out of control in the gulf.

Even worse, as my latest week of adventures illustrate, BP is using federal agencies to shield itself from public accountability.

For example, while flying on a small plane from New Orleans to Orange Beach, the pilot suddenly exclaimed, "Look at that!" The thin red line marking the federal flight restrictions of 3,000 feet over the oiled Gulf region had just jumped to include the coastal barrier islands off Alabama.

"There's only one reason for that," the pilot said. "BP doesn't want the media taking pictures of oil on the beaches. You should see the oil that's about six miles off the coast," he said grimly. We looked down at the wavy orange boom surrounding the islands below us. The pilot shook his head. "There's no way those booms are going to stop what's offshore from hitting those beaches."

BP knows this as well -- boom can only deflect oil under the calmest of sea conditions, not barricade it -- so they have stepped up their already aggressive effort to control what the public sees.

At the same time I was en route to Orange Beach, Clint Guidry with the Louisiana Shrimp Association and Dean Blanchard, who owns the largest shrimp processor in Louisiana, were in Grand Isle taking Anderson Cooper out in a small boat to see the oiled beaches. The U.S. Coast Guard held up the boat for 20 minutes - an intimidation tactic intended to stop the cameras from recording BP's damage. Luckily for Cooper and the viewing public, Dean Blanchard is not easily intimidated.

A few days later, the jig was up with the booms. Oil was making landfall in four states and even BP can't be everywhere at once. CBS 60 Minutes Australia found entire sections of boom hung up in marsh grasses two feet above the water off Venice. On the same day on the other side of Barataria Bay, Louisiana Bayoukeeper documented pools of oil and oiled pelicans inside the boom - on the supposedly protected landward side - of Queen Bess Island off Grand Isle.

With oil undisputedly hitting the beaches and the number of dead wildlife mounting, BP is switching tactics. In Orange Beach, people told me BP wouldn't let them collect carcasses. Instead, the company was raking up carcasses of oiled seabirds. "The heads separate from the bodies," one upset resident told me. "There's no way those birds are going to be autopsied. BP is destroying evidence!"

The body count of affected wildlife is crucial to prove the harm caused by the spill, and also serves as an invaluable tool to evaluate damages to public property - the dolphins, sea turtles, whales, sea birds, fish, and more, that are owned by the American public. Disappeared body counts means disappeared damages - and disappeared liability for BP. BP should not be collecting carcasses. The job should be given to NOAA, a federal agency, and volunteers, as was done during the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.

NOAA should also be conducting carcass drift studies. Only one percent of the dead sea birds made landfall in the Gulf of Alaska, for example. That means for every one bird that was found, another 99 were carried out to sea by currents. Further, NOAA should be conducting aerial surveys to look for carcasses in the offshore rips where the currents converge. That's where the carcasses will pile up--a fact we learned during the Exxon Valdez spill. Maybe that's another reason for BP's "no camera" policy and the flight restrictions.

On Saturday June _ people across America will stand up and speak out with one voice to protest BP's treatment of the Gulf, neglect for the response workers, and their response to government authority. President Obama needs to hear and see the people waving cameras and respirators. Until the media is allowed unrestricted access to the Gulf and impacted beaches, BP - not the President of United States - will remain in charge of the Gulf response.

For more information on community rallies, please visit

Friday, May 21, 2010

Proposed Resolution to the United Nations on Banning Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

Take Action: Support a Proposed Resolution to the United Nations on Banning Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

Hello, friends!

I hope this message finds you doing well.

I am sending you a draft of a resolution I wrote that I would like to send to the United Nations seeking a ban on offshore oil and gas drilling. The current situation in the Gulf of Mexico presents a possible teachable moment. I realize that UN resolutions are non-binding, but it is a start and may someday become a treaty. Please note that I drafted this on my own and was not called upon to write a resolution. Thus, it may take many of us to get something to the floor of the UN.

You are in receipt of this draft resolution for three reasons: (1) you are like-minded and support protecting the environment; (2) I would like your input, ideas, expertise, and comments; and (3) I would like your help in getting the draft resolution to the UN visa vie the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or any other outlet you may think might work.

If you support it, I encourage you to replace my name with your entity’s name and re-word it to your liking . . . and submit it to anyone you feel might be able to help guide it into adoption. I put my name on it so people wouldn't be confused into thinking there was an existing resolution . . . please replace my name with your group's name if you would like to submit it to the UN.

I kept it short and sweet and tried to incorporate the requisite preambulatory and operative phrases required by the UN. If you have more knowledge or experience in drafting these types of resolutions, please take liberty in making any necessary changes.

I appreciate your assistance.






Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Coal dust in Seward

The pattern of deregulation is common with all transportation of mining, oil and gas materials in Alaska; especially, when shifting companies and owners. I know that there are major auto-immune diseases in areas in Appalachia where there is Mountain Top removal for coal.

So far, the Native Corporations, State and Federal agencies have not been active (in Trust Responsibilities) at building Tribal and community capacity to gather important human health and environmental information on mining processes, including in the transportation. The only statewide organization advocating for protecting the environment and human health for Tribal Governments is Alaska Inter-Tribal Council (AITC), which now has a defunct Environmental Program due to issues of Alaska Native Corporations being recognized as Tribal Governments and conflict of interest in developing mining education projects for Alaska Village and Tribal Governments.

With the help of Western Mining Action Network, Alaska's Big Village Network, Alaska Inter-Tribal Council and KACN TV will be working on a mini-project to begin shining lights on these issues from an indigenous perspective for broadcast to villages.

Included will be information on how Tribal Governments can take action to get involved in overturning Corporate preclusion of Tribal Governments (emphasis on traditional, customary and modern use of resources.) The Tribal Governments should be receiving all applications for developments from companies (including Native Corporations) that impact all traditional, customary and modern uses of resources. Like say " a big mine that takes a lot of water from a salmon stream and discharges pollution into the watershed" where there may be multiple historic and cultural properties with modern customary use that can help future generations adapt to the changing climate. (DOI has a memo regarding 'landscape conservation' for creating adaptation to climate change).

Obama could possibly be making sweeping changes within each federal agency regarding Executive Order 13175. If Alaska Tribal Governments stand by, Alaska Native Corporations will continue to pretend that they are Tribal Governments under Ted Stevens 2004 and 2005 Appropriations Act that precluded Tribal sovereignty, self-determination and education.

Coal dust an ugly problem in scenic Seward

LAWSUIT: Groups say railroad needs to fix problem or get permit.

The Associated Press

Published: November 10th, 2009 02:00 PM
Last Modified: November 10th, 2009 09:39 PM

When the north wind blows in Seward, dust flies off a large pile of coal and covers the town's scenic boat harbor in black grit.


The facility was built in 1984 as a state economic development project to engage in the world coal market. The coal was transported from Healy to Seward under a contract with Suneel Alaska Corp., the purchaser of coal for the Korean market.

When Suneel ran the facility it was permitted as a coal-processing facility and was allowed under a permit to emit 87 metric tons of coal dust annually, Maddox said.

When the railroad took over, it was reclassified as a storage facility, even though nothing changed in its operation, he said. Because it's classified as a storage facility, the railroad doesn't need a coal-dust permit.

Red Dog gets setback over discharge permit

Red Dog is one of America's largest polluters according to the US EPA Toxic Release Inventories. A toxic pipeline to the Chukchi Sea isn't a great option considering the lack of biological and scientific information; including hunting, fishing and gathering impacts to indigenous peoples and migratory animals (caribou, sea mammals, fish, shellfish, plankton, whales, birds) Food Security is a growing issue for all communities on Earth as climate change and bioengineering of industrial seafood and mainland crops are proving to be unsustainable and miserably vulnerable to rapidly changing environmental conditions, including adaptive pathogens.


Red Dog gets setback over discharge permit

Natives in two villages have won a battle against the world's largest zinc mine over a permit they said would have polluted a fish stream that provides food and drinking water.

The Native villages of Kivalina and Point Hope challenged the Red Dog Mine's new water-pollution-discharge permit, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn features of the permit of concern to the villagers. The federal permit would have allowed more cyanide, zinc, selenium, lead and total dissolved solids into the Wulik River than is currently allowed, villagers said.

Enoch Adams Jr., vice president of the Native Village of Kivalina, has called the permit a "license to pollute." It was to become effective March 1.

The mining company, Teck Alaska, believed the permit worked on by the state and the EPA was sound, Jim Kulas, the company's environmental and public affairs manager, said Friday. If the permit issues can't be resolved by October, plans to shut down the mining until they are, he said.

Stopping production at the zinc, lead and silver mine near Kotzebue would have implications for Native firms, local governments and employees relying on Red Dog dollars. The mine is running out of ore in its main pit and needs federal permission to begin excavating a second pit that could keep the mine going for another 20 years.

Red Dog has struggled with its water discharges since starting up two decades ago. The mine has routinely violated some criteria within its federal water-pollution-discharge permit, resulting in fines and lawsuits. The new permit would legalize the discharges that have been problematic.

The Native villages say it's illegal for the EPA to relax the mine's previous permit.

Federal and state regulators said the changes would be OK because the mine's pollution discharges are not harmful and fish populations downstream of Red Dog have actually grown because the discharges contain a less harmful pollutants than the natural flow of water before the mine was built. The new permit would not increase the amount of pollution from the mine, they say.

After a review, the EPA decided March 17 that Teck Alaska will have to comply with more stringent levels under its 1998 permit. The agency told Mining News that it could restore the withdrawn portions of the new permit once better justification of them is developed.

Adams of Kivilina said, "Our village wants economic development but at the same time we demand that EPA protect our subsistence and clean water rights."

"The only thing we want is to be able to drink our water with some peace of mind ... and not wonder what is in the fish," he said.

Lawyer Brent Newell with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment in San Francisco, said Red Dog has violated its old permit hundreds of times.

The new permit would have given mine operators even more leeway, he said. Not only would it have allowed more cyanide, zinc, selenium and lead into waters downstream from the mine, but also would have drastically changed the way the mine handles total dissolved solids or wastewater from the mining operation, Newell said.

Instead of measuring total dissolved solids at the end of the pipe where the waste enters the Wulik River, Teck Alaska would have been allowed a four-mile "mixing zone" to test for pollution once it was diluted, he said.

That would have allowed high levels of dissolved solids to enter the river, an important spawning ground for fish, Newell said.

"That is really crazy," Adams said.

In 2008, five Kivalina residents reached a settlement with Teck Alaska after a lengthy court fight that established over 800 violations of the federal Clean Water Act for discharging mine waste into the Wulik River, Newell said.

The village is about 45 miles downstream from the mine.

The settlement requires Teck to either build a pipeline to discharge treated mining waste into the Chukchi Sea, instead of the river, or pay a multimillion-dollar fine.

Adams said no one wants to shut down the mine.

"The only thing that we want is for them to build the pipeline," Adams said. "We just want them to be responsible."

support for mine

At least nine organizations in the Northwest Arctic have passed resolutions in support of new permits to allow Red Dog's expansion, including the Northwest Arctic Borough and tribal governments in Noorvik, Kiana, Kotzebue and Deering.

The mine is a the major source of private tax dollars and jobs in the region.

Teck still needs to obtain a wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers before it can begin excavation in the new ore deposit.

The Anchorage Daily News/adn.com contributed to this article.

Last Great Race - Arctic Uranium

by Carl Wassilie

Elim Students and community protests Uranium exploration on Seward Peninsula along the world premier Iditarod sled dog race at the Elim checkpoint 120 miles from Nome.Funny Murray, an Inupiaq Para-professional in Elim, says that the students are leading the effort to raise awareness on the uranium’s destructive impacts to the environment, ecosystem and people. “The Elim Students Against Uranium (ESAU) researched how uranium development can cause damage to the health of the environment, plants, animals and people. They (ESAU) are speaking up for environmental justice here in Elim, the Bering Sea and the Arctic.”
Carl Wassilie, a Yup’ik biologist for Alaska’s Big Village Network, says that any industrial activity like uranium exploration can have profound impacts on the Earth's ecosystem, especially for people who continue to hunt and gather from the land and the water. One of the by-products of pulling uranium out of the Earth is radon gas, which can travel thousands of miles with a slight breeze and ‘falls out’ on the surface of the Earth into water systems, plants and animals. “Basically, people, birds, fish, caribou, moose and all animals living hundreds of miles away can get chronic and long-term exposure to radioactive fall-out that cause an array of health problems and cancer; especially vulnerable are elders, pregnant women and young children.”
“The board and staff of Alaska Community Action on Toxics stand in solidarity with the people of Elim in opposing uranium mining in the region. We believe that uranium mining poses a dire threat to the health and well-being of the community of Elim and other villages in the area. We will continue to work with them to protect the waters, lands, traditional foods, and public health.”
Since 2007, students and elders gathered for days out along the trail in Elim holding signs and giving mushers information about Triex Minerals and Full-Metal Minerals drilling operations. ESAU are leading the effort again, as the Iditarod racers, tourists and volunteers race through the friendly community that has always supported the Iditarod.

Elim IRA Council in partnership with the Center for Water Advocacy (CWA) will conduct research in relation to land, water and sovereignty rights of the Council. The CWA and the Council will work with the federal agencies on a government to-government basis to development regulatory standards and take other actions in protecting human health of the Seward Peninsula ecosystem from the impacts of uranium mining activity.
In the spring of 2008, the Native Village of Elim threatened to sue the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) due to the agencies failure to provide notice or comment to the community. The BLM did not provide any information at all about the Triex and Full Metal Mineral Mining Companies’ (Companies) proposed uranium exploration activities that affected the Elim Village’s reserved lands.
The immediate purpose of this demonstration will be to call attention to the efforts of many Alaskans to prevent further impacts to the human health, subsistence and cultural life ways of the Elim Village from uranium exploration and other mining activity. The broader relevance of this is to insure that the native villages and people, who have lived in the Seward Peninsula since time immemorial, are retained, preserved and protected. The people are signifying that Alaska retains its famous cultural and environmental diversity.

Location: Alaska