Petition To Designate Lands Unsuitable For Coal Mining Chuit River Watershed

Commissioner’s Decision On Request For Reconsideration Of The October 24, 2011 Detailed Statement Of Findings And Decision On Petition Requesting That The Anadromous Streams And Associated Riparian Areas In The Chuitna River Watershed Be Designated As Lands Unsuitable for All Types Of Surface Coal Mining Operations

Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan on July 26, 2013 affirmed his 2011 decision to reject a 2010 petition seeking to designate state lands within the Chuitna River watershed as unsuitable for coal mining. The petition, filed by Trustees for Alaska on behalf of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Cook Inlet Keeper, alleged that the lands could not be reclaimed after mining and asked the state to ban surface coal mining operations on those lands. In late 2011, Sullivan agreed to reconsider his rejection of the petition, after the petitioners filed a request for reconsideration. The Commissioner’s decision on reconsideration was the culmination of a thorough review of new materials submitted by the petitioners, the administrative record, and state and federal laws and regulations.

Detailed Statement of Findings and Decision on Petition Requesting that the Streambeds of Anadromous Waterbodies and Associated Riparian Areas in the Chuitna River Watershed be Designated as Lands Unsuitable for All Types of Surface Coal Mining Operations (PDF)

Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan on October 24, 2011 issued a 109-page decision rejecting a 2010 petition to designate state lands within the Chuitna River watershed as unsuitable for coal mining. The petition was filed by Trustees for Alaska on behalf of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Cook Inlet Keeper. Alleging that the lands cannot be reclaimed after mining, the petitioners asked the state to ban surface coal mining operations within the Chuitna watershed. Granting the petition would have halted an extensive environmental review of proposed mining activity and blocked the state from reviewing future permit applications for coal mining on these lands.

The petition was opposed by three entities - Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office, Tyonek Native Corporation (TNC), and PacRim Coal, LP - who intervened during the petition process to protect their property interests. Commissioner Sullivan found that the petition did not meet the statutory requirements for granting a petition because, in part, the evidence in the record demonstrates that reclamation is technologically feasible. This evidence is cited extensively in the decision.