Supreme Court: DNR Wrongfully Issued Pebble Permits

Just a day after two federal lawsuits involving the Pebble mine were in the news, mine opponents Friday are hailing the Alaska Supreme Court’s decisions on two state cases.

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The justices unanimously overturned a 2011 ruling in a case that challenged whether the DNR permits issued for exploratory work at the Pebble site should’ve included some public notice.

The plaintiffs, including Nunamta Aulukestai, Vic Fischer, and former first lady Bella Hammond, argued that DNR was essentially disposing of public lands when it permitted the drilling of more than 1,000 holes and dozens of seismic blast lines as Pebble explored the deposit north of Lake Iliamna.

An Anchorage Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the State of Alaska, and Pebble, which had joined the lawsuit. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed the 2011 ruling.

The second case, linked to the first, involved the matter of collecting legal fees after a lawsuit. After the first case was ruled on in 2011, Pebble and the State of Alaska sought costs and attorney’s fees of nearly a million dollars from the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs argued they had brought a non-frivolous constitutional claim, and didn’t have a sufficient economic motive for doing so. The Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed.