U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Appeal on 404 Permit

8 08 2008

The United States Supreme Court will review a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that barred discharge of liquefied gold mining waste into an Alaskan mountain lake. The underlying cases are Coeur Alaska Inc. v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, No. 07-984 and Alaska v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, No. 07-990. The state of Alaska and Coeur Alaska Inc., a gold mining company, are seeking to reopen Alaska’s Kensington Gold Mine. The Ninth Circuit overturned a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act that allowed the company to dump dredged waste from the mine into the Lower Slate Lake in the Tongass National Forest. The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and others filed a lawsuit objecting to the permit. They argued that the Corps violated Sections 301(a), 301(e), and 306(e) of the CWA by issuing a permit for the discharge of process wastewater from a “froth-flotation mill” into a body of water protected by effluent limits promulgated by EPA. The petitioners assert that the case has both economic and administrative law importance whereby the economic benefits of mining to a region must be considered in evaluating environmental concerns.

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