Alaska Supreme Court clears Bristol Bay Initiative for ballot

The Alaska Supreme Court heard arguments on the Pebble Initiative yesterday. (Alexandra Gutierrez/Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska Supreme Court heard arguments on the Pebble Initiative on June 11. (Alexandra Gutierrez/Alaska Public Media)

An initiative that would add another roadblock to the Pebble Mine project will appear on the ballot this fall, now that a legal challenge against it has failed.

The Alaska Supreme Court issued an expedited order on Monday saying that the Bristol Bay Forever initiative was constitutional. The order comes less than two weeks after the justices heard the case. The lawsuit was brought by a coalition of mining groups, who believe the initiative is invalid because it only regulates mining in one part of the state. The Alaska Constitution does not allow statewide initiatives to deal with local matters.

But initiative sponsors and the Alaska Division of Elections defended the ballot proposition, which would require the Legislature to approve large-scale mining operations in the Bristol Bay region. They argued that the health of that watershed and its salmon fishery is an issue of statewide importance.

The Supreme Court still has to issue a formal opinion explaining their judgment, but the two-page order allows the Division of Elections to go ahead with preparing the November 4 ballot.

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