State Files Lawsuit to Defend Permitting Process
October 28, 2011
Anchorage, Alaska – The State of Alaska filed a constitutional challenge today in Anchorage Superior Court against an ordinance recently enacted by ballot initiative in the Lake and Peninsula Borough.
The local ordinance attempts to give the Lake and Peninsula Borough’s planning commission authority to nullify state permitting processes and prevent the development of certain large-scale resource development activity. The ordinance requires the planning commission’s approval of a borough development permit before an applicant may receive a state or federal permit.
The State’s lawsuit alleges that the borough ordinance is invalid because it tilts the constitutional balance between state and local interests. The Alaska Constitution gives the Alaska Legislature the authority to determine how to develop resources for maximum use consistent with the public interest. It is therefore the State’s duty to evaluate projects to determine whether they can be conducted in a way that serves the public interest, and if so, what safeguards to require. Under the Lake and Peninsula Borough ordinance, the State may never have that opportunity. While boroughs have limited power to regulate some of the activities associated with resource development, a small majority of voters in a local community cannot usurp the more comprehensive state authority and eliminate the entire state permitting process.
"This case is not about state support for or against a Pebble Mine project," Alaska Attorney General John Burns said. "It is about upholding the State’s constitutional authority and responsibility to evaluate whether, on balance, development of Alaska’s resources is beneficial to all Alaskans. This administration has consistently maintained that the State will not sacrifice one resource for another. In the case of Pebble, we haven’t yet even considered the pros and cons of any development that may be proposed. But the Alaska Constitution requires the State—not the borough—to fairly and completely conduct this evaluation."
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