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3/19/15 - Trustees for Alaska challenging decades-old permit for Palmer area coal mine

The Trustees for Alaska are going back to court to fight a federal okay for coal mining at Wishbone Hill in Palmer.  Trustee attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court in Anchorage yesterday ( Wednesday) on behalf of the Castle Mountain Coalition (CMC) and other groups opposed to coal mining in the area.  Vicki Clark, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, says they’re concerned about a new coal mine going in under a permit that was issued decades ago.

The Castle Mountain Coalition (CMC) filed the suit against the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) for its decision last November to allow Usibelli Coal to operate at Wishbone Hill. Plaintiffs allege the Wishbone Hill mining permits, now owned by Usibelli Coal, are expired. The status of the mining permits has been in question for some time.

But last year, OSM upheld the state's decision to renew the permits, while criticizing the state's handling of the matter.  OSM's Robert Postal said the state had erred by not officially terminating the permits in the first place.

 CMC represents about three thousand Matanuska Valley residents.


Governor, Lt. Governor disclose 2014 income

Gov. Bill Walker and his wife each reported income of between $100,000 and $200,000 for the sale of their law firm.  The capital gains were from the sale of the property owned by their company Bootlegger Cove LLC, which is dissolved. The information is included on the financial disclosure Walker filed Sunday. It says the firm was sold Dec. 1, when Walker took office. The Walkers maintain interests in other real estate.

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott reported at least $1 million in income upon resigning from the Alaska Air Group board. Mallott, by email, said stock held as deferred income was transferred to him and taxed as ordinary income when he resigned from the board Dec. 1. He called it a one-time event after 32 years of service. Mallott's report also includes $20,000 to $50,000 in deferred compensation from Sealaska Corp. that he says was triggered by his resignation from Sealaska's board last year.


Mat-Su Borough Assembly vote down a local vote on commercial marijuana

By Philip Manning, KTNA

At Tuesday night's meeting, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly unanimously opposed Mayor Larry DeVilbiss' request for an advisory vote on banning commercial marijuana operations in unincorporated areas of the Valley.  All seven members of the Mat-Su Borough Assembly voted against a resolution that would have put multiple advisory questions on the borough's October ballot regarding commercial marijuana.  Mayor DeVilbiss submitted the resolution, which would have asked whether borough residents outside of incorporated cities desired a ban on commercial growth, manufacture, testing, and sale of the plant.

The reasons for the unanimous 'no' vote varied.  Many, including Assembly Member Matthew Beck, say that it's premature to ask those questions, especially since the Assembly was about to confirm nominations for the borough's advisory committee on marijuana.

"They might be able to come up with some questions that are missing from the list of questions.  Before we move on something like this, I would like to hear from that advisory committee."

Other Assembly Members called the proposed ballot questions redundant, since the issues were covered under Proposition 2, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state.  As a whole, the measure failed in the Valley, though there was significant support from areas like Palmer, Sutton, and Talkeetna.

Deputy Mayor Ronald Arvin gave two reasons for his opposition.  The first was that he feels it is the Assembly's job to interpret the will of its constituents.

"The people that vote to put Assembly Members here expect those members, through the public process, to carry out their wishes, and not put it back on somebody else.  Sometimes you have to make the hard choice, sitting here."

Arvin's other reason for voting against the resolution is that he feels it is problematic, given that a popular vote has already occurred statewide.

"This flies fundamentally in the face of what just passed a statewide ballot.  That's our fundamental democracy."

While the proposed resolution failed, a similar one could emerge after the marijuana advisory committee meets.  The date for that first meeting has not been determined.  The deadline for any additions to the borough ballot is in mid-August.

Eighteen mushers make it to Nome

In the Iditarod Trail Dog-sled Race, eighteen mushers are in to Nome this morning. Dallas Seavey, his father Mitch Seavey, and Aaron Burmeister took first second and third place, followed by Jessie Royer and Ally Zirkle. Other top mushers are Joar Leifseth  Ulsom, Jeff King, Wade Marrs, Ken Anderson, and, in 10th place, Nicolas Petit.