Minor Setback in Bristol Bay Case

January 26, 2012 By: Benjamin Clary

The legal fight against the massive Pebble Mine hit a minor snag earlier this week.  On Tuesday, in the case State v. Non Dalton Tribal Council, et al, the Alaska Supreme Court held that Alaska DNR’s plan, which did not require public comment, was proper.

Regulations, which are passed by state agencies as opposed to statutes which are passed by the legislature, require a specific process in order for them to become law.  Among the steps is a public comment step, where the regulation must be submitted to the public for comment.

Plaintiffs in the case, six tribal councils joined by various organizations including Trout Unlimited, filed the case against the State of Alaska stating, among other arguments, that DNR’s land use plans were regulations and therefore must be submitted for public comment.  If the argument had been successful, the controversial 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan, and all area plans, would essentially have to start from the beginning, and ultimately include a public comment period.

Despite an undesirable ruling on that specific issue, the Alaska Supreme Court did decide that a statute that would have barred the lawsuit altogether, did not apply.  The decision in Non Dalton Tribal Council comes after a ruling adverse to conservation interests in Nunamata Aulukestai et. al. v. State  on September 26, 2011.