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Friday, January 28, 2022

And Now, a Message from Gov. Sean Parnell


Governor Parnell and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, headed up by Daniel Sullivan, rejected a petition on Friday filed by local citizens seeking to protect wild Alaska salmon streams from coal strip mining in Upper Cook Inlet. And by Upper Cook Inlet, I mean directly across from Anchorage in the villages of Tyonek and Beluga.

The massive Chuitna Coal project would need to drain wetlands, and completely remove productive salmon streams which are home to all five species of Alaskan salmon in a totally unprecedented act that would make all salmon streams in the state vulnerable to the bulldozer in the name of “resource development.”

Wetlands at the Chuitna coal strip mining site. This area would have to be excavated and drained to 300 feet deep.

Wetlands at the Chuitna coal strip mining site. This area would have to be excavated and drained to 300 feet deep. (photo J. Devon)

“This is a horrible precedent for Alaska wild salmon and the countless families they support. PacRim Coal’s mining plans would remove miles and miles of wild Alaska salmon streams to a depth of over 300 feet,” said Judy Heilman, Chuitna Citizens Coalition President. “The Alaska Department of Fish and Game calls the tributaries PacRim would remove as important to salmon, yet the state refuses to formally protect our wild salmon streams.”

Judy Heilman, outside her Beluga, Alaska home.

Judy Heilman, outside her Beluga, Alaska home.

Back in January of 2010 the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Cook Inletkeeper submitted a petition to the state seeking protective buffers to protect the area directly around the Chuitna River and its tributaries under the Alaska Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act. This petition did not even seek to ban coal mining in the area, this was a move simply to say no to coal strip mining within salmon streams themselves. Similar buffers are standard for logging operations and in municipal development plans, and would not have affected the vast area of PacRim’s lease area. Even this minimum basic respect for fishing rights was just too much for the Parnell administration, apparently.


The mouth of the Chuit River as it flows into Cook Inlet. Gov. Parnell says now that there will be no buffer zone here. (Photo by J. Devon)

“It’s a sad day when Governor Parnell’s policies protect a Delaware corporation’s profits over our wild Cook Inlet salmon runs and the Alaskan families salmon support” said Terry Jorgensen, a Cook Inlet commercial fisherman and founding member of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition. “DNR’s rejection clearly illustrates the State’s failure to protect our wild salmon runs. The Governor must understand the importance of salmon to Alaskans, yet his policies are leading us down the same path that led to the demise of salmon runs around the world.”


Terry Jorgensen in his Beluga, Alaska home. (Photo by J. Devon)

Dr. Margaret Palmer, the Director of the National Science Foundation’s Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center unambiguously told Alaska Senate Committee members that PacRim’s mining plan will destroy 11 miles of salmon streams and that these impacts will be irreversible. Dr. Palmer, who is an expert in stream restoration with a long history dealing with impacts of surface mining on streams, went on to say, “Large scale failure at Chuitna is inevitable.”

And don’t believe that what happens way over on the “other” side of the Inlet doesn’t affect Anchorage, or areas north. If this mining effort is successful, the price for low-grade coal for China is not only blatant destruction of salmon streams, but seven million gallons of mine waste every day, pouring into the Cook Inlet watershed. Salmon for the commercial, subsistence and sport fisheries of Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley will be swimming to your table through a toxic soup of contamination, and mine sludge – assuming they get to your table at all.


The waters of Cook Inlet, between the site of the massive proposed Chuitna strip mine on one side, and Anchorage on the other. 7 million gallons of mine waste will be dumped here, every day. (Photo by J. Devon)

“Governor Parnell has said on several occasions he would ‘never trade one resource for another,’ but that’s exactly what he’s doing by allowing strip mining in our salmon streams,” said Heilman. “Time and again the Parnell administration has refused to protect our salmon and our way of life. It’s time for Alaskans to stand up for the salmon we all depend on.”

There’s an old saying that when someone tells you who they are, believe them. Sean Parnell has always sided with multinational corporations, irresponsible developers and development plans. Once a lobbyist for fossil fuels, always a lobbyist for fossil fuels. Never has Parnell stood with the citizens who rely on clean water, and healthy fish for their livelihoods, or their subsistence.

Even if you never set foot in Beluga, or Tyonek, this affects all Alaskans. Once a project gets the green light to irreversibly destroy prime salmon streams, others will follow – of that you can be sure. We need new leadership in this state – an administration that respects its people, and its greatest renewable resource.

When I attended a hearing in the Native village of Tyonek, a resident elder there spoke beautifully and from the heart about what PacRim Coal and Governor Parnell are willing to sacrifice to get cheap, poor-quality coal to sell to China. They are willing to sell Alaska’s soul, and its salmon down the river.



13 Responses to “And Now, a Message from Gov. Sean Parnell”
  1. JBG says:

    Well,…..Whadda ya expect when the State continues to elect uber-extreme right wingers. Do ya honestly think that the republicans and tea party folks give a damn about natural resources and the people that depend on them when some big corporate behmoth wants to make a few bucks. You get what you elect and you and the rest of the counrty get screwed for the benefit of a few rich political contributors. Throw the whole bunch in jail and let them screw each other instread of the natural resources and the people of the State.

  2. NickWI says:

    what should be done to protect these areas is a Coastal national monument, like California has. anything within 10 miles of the coast is set aside-assuming its public land- so that the wetlands and wildlife are protected. in Alaska’s case, that would stretch from the panhandle all the way around to ANWR. it would be gigantic, 10s of millions of acres. of course since there are 13 wildlife refuges in the state already. the net effect would be combining many of them into a single , enormous national monument that covers and protects every sq mile of coastline.( 6640 miles in case you are wondering). basically it would convert the coastal management that expired into a federally managed locally run endeavor. since the fed owns most of the state already, its little different that the current situation.

  3. mike from iowa says:

    So who is this guy? Hope he tells Parnell to take a flying leap.

  4. Mo says:

    That’s what voting Republican get us. Everybody happy now?

    Connecting some dots this morning:

    And what did Public Polling Policy find? Alaskans still hate Sarah Palin! However, the far right still loves her, and 36% of GOP primary voters would pick her for their standard bearer…”

    And from today’s essay at Hullabaloo about Republican cheating on standards for charter schools:

    “The dead, determined eyes of the cult member are far more terrifying that the greedy gleam of the malicious huckster. You can bargain with or intimidate the huckster. The cultist, not so much.”

    Republicans. Cultists. If I were doing a Venn diagram, there would be 36% overlap between the two circles.

  5. The issue is much bigger than Chuitna; the problem is coal itself. A dirty, polluting and inefficient fuel, it’s best left in the ground. Burnt, it contributes mercury, sulfates, and megatons of CO2 to the atmosphere. Keep coal in the ground. Alaska, of all places, should no the dangers of burning the very dirtiest fossil fuel.

  6. Zyxomma says:

    I’ve already lost many of the “side hikes” I used to take (for different scenery and more difficulty) in Appalachia, when leaving the Appalachian Trail. I wouldn’t recognize those mountains anymore; they’ve been clearcut, had 500′ blown off with explosives, and been mined of their coal by heavy equipment. The streams in the valleys are no more; they’re filled with mining waste. This horrid devastation at least takes out of the ground the highest quality coal in the world. Coal quality is based on age, and the Appalachian Mountain range is the oldest on earth — that’s right, on the whole planet. Those little mountains were once as tall as the Rockies. I weep for those that are gone.

    Alaska is a whole different story. The proposed strip mine would seek to mine the LOWEST quality coal, because the terrain is so young (geologically speaking). It probably would not be legal to burn it in US power plants. That’s supposed to be okay with us, because it would be shipped away to China, keeping the skies over Beijing toxic, sulfurous yellow. Well, wake up, people. THERE IS NO AWAY. (Yes, when I write my book about living sustainably, that’s the title.)

    All five species of salmon make that area their home. Once they’re gone, there is no recovery. Sean “I’ll never trade one resource for another” Parnell needs to find himself in court. If Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Cook Inletkeeper need help, I suggest contacting for that help. They’re smart environmental lawyers who know how to sue to protect natural resources, like five species of salmon. Every voter in Anchorage has a stake in this. Keep the oily bastard in court until you’ve voted him out of office. If there’s anything those of us Outside can do to help, let us know, before it’s too late.

  7. Fred says:

    This should be a warning to Alaska Natives and other lovers of our natural renewable resources. We are becoming West Virginia.
    What is this? A test to see how hard it would be to get Pebble Mine approved? Lets wake up. We need to let our elected officials know where we stand and how we’ll vote.
    I know where my senator stands. Do you? My Representative who changed parties after going to Juneau is on my list.
    Seriously, we ALL need to get involved. i knew we as Alaska Natives would become a minority. What I didn’t count on was becoming a minority to a corporation(s).
    Pebble Mine got a whole lot closer today.

    • thatcrowwoman says:

      “We are becoming West Virginia.”

      Suffering the lingering effects of Miner$ who remove mountaintops and destroy rivers while promising to “make it whole”…

      Alaska, you don’t need that kind of suffering.
      Save your waters.
      Save your salmon.
      While you still can.

      in solidarity,

  8. Alaska Pi says:

    Cap’n Torpedo just sunk another promise din’t he?
    Lying sack o rotten spuds.

  9. thatcrowwoman says:

    That’s a crying shame.

  10. mike from iowa says:

    Someone needs to start filing injunctions-one after the other,to slow this puppy down until hopefully Parnell can be removed from office for willful disregard of Alaska’s constitution.

  11. InJuneau says: