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Chuitna Coal Project


ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The Chuitna Citizens Coalition today asked Governor Parnell in a letter to publicly rescind statements made by his resource agency commissioners in Japan, and to direct his staff to cease additional work on this project until it's clear the Chuitna coal strip mine will not "trade one resource for another."

In July, Commissioner Tom Irwin, Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR), Commissioner Larry Hartig, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), and Ed Fogels, Director Office of Project Management and Permitting participated in the Japan Oil, Gas & Minerals National Corporation seminar in Tokyo. The Alaska delegation presented a powerpoint entitled the 'Alaska Resource Overview', dedicating over half the presentation to coal and including slides on the Chuitna Coal Project. In that presentation, the State of Alaska representatives claimed 'Permitting [is] expected to be completed in 2011,' and 'Production [is] anticipated in 2014.'

In presenting the Chuitna Coal Project, there was a clear and obvious implication that the project has a predetermined outcome despite the continued efforts to assure the citizens of Alaska that the State has a 'rigorous permitting system.'

"The Alaskans are continually told to "wait and see" - to allow the permitting process to run its course - yet we have the State's top regulators telling potential buyers and investors that PacRim's Chuitna Coal Project will be permitted next year" said Bobbi Burnett of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition (CCC). "If this is a done deal, then why have a permitting process at all?"

The Chuitna Coal Project would be the first strip mine in state history allowed to mine directly through 11 miles of salmon spawning and rearing habitat, completely removing the streambed from bank to bank to a depth of 350 feet. According to fisheries biologist and restoration experts, reclamation of this important salmon resource will be functionally impossible. Middle Creek, a tributary to the Chuitna River (recognized as important to salmon by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game) will be destroyed.

"For years, the Texas millionaires behind PacRim Coal have clearly stated their intent to permanently remove important wild salmon habitat and ship coal to China and other Asian countries." Judy Heilman of the CCC said. "They will trade our invaluable salmon resources for dirty coal despite overwhelming opposition from local communities, commercial fishermen and subsistence users. PacRim's Chuitna Coal Project is the definition of irresponsible development."

"Before Alaskans can even weigh in on the permitting process for the Chuitna coal strip mine, the state is spending our tax dollars to send our regulators to Japan to promote a project that destroys Alaskan salmon streams," said Bobbi Burnett. "It's not fair, and it's not right. It's downright un-Alaskan."

The mission of the CCC is to educate the public, elected officials and decision makers about the value of the Chuitna River using the best available science to protect the Chuitna Watershed from destruction by PacRim Coal.

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