Alaska Borough Approves Coal Mine Near Denali

Published April 12, 2013

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly rejected the arguments of environmental activist groups and approved a proposal for a mine south of Denali National Park in Alaska.

The borough passed a resolution recommending approval of the mine proposal after the Alaska Energy Corporation requested the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to open 13,175 acres of land in the Canyon Creek area, south of the Skwentna River, for coal mining operations.

Near Unanimous Support
“The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly supports the efforts of DNR to lease the site for coal exploration and mining, and supports the efforts to authorize environmentally responsible coal mining that will benefit borough workers, taxpayers and residents,” Borough Assembly members stated in the resolution. Mayor Larry DeVilbiss sponsored the resolution, which the Assembly approved by a vote of 6 to 1.

Economic, Environmental Benefits
The resolution highlighted the potential for long-term, high paying coal development jobs for Matanuska-Susitna residents. The resolution also noted the Alaska Energy Corporation is implementing progressive environmental safeguards to ensure excellent air and water quality and the preservation of important fish and wildlife habitat.

Assemblyman Warren Keogh cast the only no vote. Keogh did so after fellow Assembly members declined to impose a 1 percent extraction tax on mined coal. He did, however, convince fellow Assembly members to include a statement that the Assembly would later consider a 1 percent extraction tax on coal extracted within its jurisdictional boundaries.

DNR Will Make Final Decision
An Alaska DNR spokeswoman said the agency issued a preliminary decision supporting a future coal lease sale at the Canyon Creek project area.

“Public notice was given, and many comments were received. The comments are under consideration, and DNR will write a final decision,” spokesperson Elizabeth Bluemink said. “The final decision will address many factors, including environmental factors such as impacts to fish and wildlife habitat, air and water quality effects, and the potential for fuel or other substance spills.

“The Borough Assembly’s consideration of an extraction tax will have no impact on DNR’s decision whether to have a future coal lease sale at the Canyon Creek project area,” Bluemink added.

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.