PRESS RELEASE: 7/24/2012
July 23, 2012
For Immediate Release
Jeremiah Millen Executive Director, Friends of Mat-‐Su (907) 746-‐0130
Kirby Spangler, President, Castle Mountain Coalition, (907) 746-‐3733
Bonnie Zirkle, Business Owner, Moose Creek Community (907) 745-‐7777
Office of Surface Mining Protects Mat-‐Su Communities from Unpermitted Coal Mining
Agency decision ensures that laws to protect public safety and the environment are followed
Palmer, AK -‐-‐ In response to a citizen complaint, the Federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) issued a preliminary decision and determined that Usibelli’s permits for the Wishbone Hill Mine are likely not valid. As a result, the company has been operating in violation of Alaska law.
“This is a clear affirmation that the State and Usibelli Coal Mine Co. have not been doing their due diligence to protect the health of our communities,” said Tim Leach, Conservation Director for Friends of Mat-‐Su. “More than 3,000 people have voiced their concern about the potential impacts of this coal mine, and finally someone is taking the steps to let Usibelli know they are not above the law.”
Since June 2010, Usibelli has been conducting mining activities at Wishbone Hill while informing the public that the mining project is fully permitted. However, the company lacked the most important permit — the permit that allows them to mine. That means the company has been operating in violation of state and federal law. After efforts to get the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to step in and remedy the situation, concerned citizens and groups sent a letter to OSM asking them to step in.
“This shows that these big coal companies don’t care about following the laws, which are meant to protect us,” said Kirby Spangler with Castle Mountain Coalition. “I’m glad OSM is looking out for our communities and our public health, especially with new international companies coming into our Valley to mine coal.”
The Wishbone Hill project would be the first coal strip mine in Alaska attempting to operate in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Communities throughout the Mat-‐Su are concerned about public safety, noise and light pollution, toxic coal dust, and impacts to property values from a coal mine.
“My family has firsthand experience dealing with the coal industry,” said Bonnie Zirkle, local resident and business owner. “We’ve seen the way that Big Coal comes into town and pits neighbors and families against each other. Hopefully our community can reunite and move forward toward a coal free future.”
To read a copy of the letter from OSM to DNR click here.