Total Pageviews

Friday, April 30, 2004

The Northern Center perspective on Pogo

The Northern Center perspective on Pogo
By Dan Adams
Apr 28, 2004, 11:30 PST

For every story that is reported by the media, several stories go untold. Here's one story that hasn't made headlines: The Northern Alaska Environmental Center says let's go ahead and build the Pogo mine. Yes, this from the nonprofit organization perhaps best known for campaigns to conserve Alaska's incomparable natural areas.

The NAEC recognizes the need for jobs and a viable economy in Interior Alaska. Any implication that NAEC wants to shut down the Pogo mine is false. Just build it in compliance with the law. That is the very least Alaskans ought to demand from Teck-Cominco, a foreign company that will profit so richly from our gold.

In that light, NAEC has accepted an invitation from Gov. Murkowski to work with state, federal and Teck-Cominco officials to find a solution to the wastewater pollution issues raised in the permit appeal.

The Clean Water Act was enacted more than 30 years ago, for good reasons. We believe that Alaskans, as people everywhere, prefer their rivers and streams free of arsenic and other toxic chemicals--especially those deposited by foreign financial interests who are paying back little or nothing for the privilege of extracting the state's resources. It is simply unacceptable that a mining company is allowed to use a stream as its unregulated private toxic waste dump.

In a recent op-ed piece, an official of the Department of Natural Resources missed the point when he stated, "The project cannot simply be redesigned to address NAEC's concerns. ... A four-year process, in which NAEC was a participant, determined that the current location was environmentally preferred." Our appeal addresses how wastewater from the mine is managed to ensure that the state's rivers are not contaminated, not the location of the mine or its waste-rock facilities.

As the state of Alaska and Teck-Cominco know full well, it is entirely possible to redirect Pogo Mine pollution away from rivers. It is standard mining industry practice to control and regulate the pollution runoff and seepage from mine waste dumps. It is done throughout the western United States, and it can be done here.

From the beginning, NAEC has tried to make sure its appeal would not raise a legal barrier to continued work on the project. When EPA informed us that sewage treatment for construction workers might be affected, we started working with EPA to resolve that problem and allow construction to proceed during the appeal. Why Teck-Cominco stopped all work on the mine while we were in the middle of addressing this problem is puzzling. Teck-Cominco has been operating without a permit (but in anticipation of getting one) since January. All indications are that necessary modifications can be made in the mine design to resolve the appeal. The NAEC is glad now to have the opportunity to discuss with the company and the agencies how we can resolve the wastewater issues and put the disputes behind us.

Properly managing discharges probably will cost money. But let us put things into perspective. Teck-Cominco is a foreign company that plans to extract 5.5 million ounces of gold worth more than $2 billion from the Goodpaster River drainage. Do you know who owns that gold? You do. It's on state land. Do you know how much of that $2 billion will go to help the state of Alaska with its budget troubles? Probably nothing, if past accounting practices from other large mines are any indication.

People get it when it comes to oil: We don't give that stuff away for free. The oil companies have to make a deal with us for our oil. And the state's interests are part of the deal. That's why income from oil accounts for 80 percent of the state's operating budget. And that's why you get a permanent fund dividend check. But somehow, when we talk about mineral extraction, we do not stand firm and demand our share. Instead, all of the proceeds will go directly to Teck-Cominco and its investors.

We at the Northern Alaska Environmental Center can't do much about how the state gives away the public's wealth. But we can keep an eye on the mining companies to make sure that they use some of the profits from developing our resources to comply with our laws. We hope that Teck-Cominco will use this opportunity to make this site a model for environmentally responsible mining.

Dan Adams is president of the board of directors of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.

© Copyright 2002 by

Monday, April 26, 2004

It's Just No Fun being a Kid Anymore

I wonder if they showed him their guns?

Secret Service Questions Washington State Student About Anti-War Drawings
The Associated Press
Published: Apr 26, 2004

PROSSER, Wash. (AP) - Secret Service agents questioned a high school student about anti-war drawings he did for an art class, one of which depicted President Bush's head on a stick.

Another pencil-and-ink drawing portrayed Bush as a devil launching a missile, with a caption reading "End the war - on terrorism."

The 15-year-old boy's art teacher at Prosser High School turned the drawings over to school administrators, who notified police, who called the Secret Service.

"We involve the police anytime we have a concern," Prosser Superintendent Ray Tolcacher told the Tri-City Herald newspaper.

Secret Service agents interviewed the boy last Friday. The student, who was not arrested, has not been identified.

The school district disciplined him, but district officials refused to say what the punishment was. Tolcacher said the boy was not suspended.

The artwork was apparently part of an assignment to keep a notebook of drawings, according to Kevin Cravens, a friend of the boy's family.

The drawing that drew the most notice showed a man in what appeared to be Middle Eastern-style clothing, holding a rifle. He was also holding a stick with an oversize head of the president on it.

The student said the head was enlarged because it was intended to be an effigy, Cravens said. The caption called for an end to the war in Iraq.

A message left by The Associated Press with an after-hours duty officer with the Secret Service in Washington, D.C., was not immediately returned on Monday.

"If this 15-year-old kid in Prosser is perceived as a threat to the president, then we are living in '1984'," Cravens said.

Tolcacher insisted it was not a freedom of speech issue, but a concern over the depiction of violence.

"From what I saw, (school officials) were right to be concerned," Prosser Police Chief Win Taylor said.

AP-ES-04-26-04 2348EDT

Now, THIS Is a Bear Story!

Young man fights off brown bear

By MARY PEMBERTON, Associated Press Writer

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (April 26, 6:20 pm ADT) - A 15-year-old boy on a wilderness expedition for emotionally troubled youths woke up to find a 400-pound brown bear with a bad attitude sitting at his feet.

The Barrow boy thought at first it was a camp counselor rustling around at the foot of his tent Saturday morning on Deer Island in Southeast Alaska. But when he figured out it was a bear, the young man - keeping his wits about him - tried to quietly slip away.

The bear would have none of it.

"It seems that pretty calmly he wriggled his way backward out of the back of the tent as the bear was going over the top of the tent," Alaska State Trooper Adam Benson said Monday. "They kind of met up at the back of the tent. The bear came down, mouth open, toward him."

Benson said the boy put up his right arm to fend off the sow, and she bit his forearm, leaving two puncture wounds.

The boy decided to fight back, a risky approach to take particularly with a brown bear, the trooper said.

"He told me he punched the bear half a dozen times with his left hand," and the bear let him go, Benson said.

When the teenager got up and tried to run, the bear bit him again on the right side of his torso, right below his ribs, this time leaving a half-dozen puncture wounds on his back, Benson said.

The boy punched the bear again a couple of times, and again she let him go.

"He jumped behind a little cluster of trees and kind of played keep away with the bear," Benson said.

During one of the turns around the trees, the young man remembered that he had an air horn in his gear and grabbed it on the run. He blew the horn in the bear's face. The sound woke up the other counselors and boys in the camp, said Steve Prysunka, director of the six-week "Crossing Wilderness Expeditions for Youth" program.

Prysunka asked that the boy not be identified in news reports.

Prysunka said counselor Willy Hollett stepped between the boy and the bear and hit her with some pepper spray. The bear reared up and he sprayed the bear again, and the bear reared up again. In the meantime, another counselor fired a flare at the bear's feet, causing her to finally turn and run.

The boy was taken to the program's floating camp - a barge with a lodge anchored about one-eighth of a mile away. An emergency medical crew arrived by float plane about 30 minutes later to take him to Ketchikan General Hospital where he was treated and released a few hours later, Prysunka said.

Benson said he was at the hospital when the teen was brought in on a stretcher. He was sitting up and looked relaxed.

"He told me it didn't hurt. I would attribute that to a pretty good shot of adrenaline," Benson said.

Late Saturday afternoon, another trooper and a couple of U.S. Forest Service employees returned to the campsite area, found the sow and killed her. There were no signs she had any cubs with her.

Benson said the counselors the evening before had checked on the campers to make sure there was no food left out to attract bears.

The boy had some Rice-A-Roni he wanted to keep.

"He said, 'No, don't take this. I'm going to eat this in a little while.' Apparently he fell asleep before he got it done. There was some food left at the foot of his tent," Benson said.

The boy was being sent home to give his wounds time to heal, Prysunka said.

"I think he is the biggest, baddest thing in the woods. He punched the bear," Prysunka said.