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More reasons to oppose Chuitna coal project

Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2011

PacRim Coal, a Delaware corporation funded by two wealthy Texans, plans to develop Alaska's largest coal strip mine in the Chuitna watershed. The strip mine will not only be the state's largest, but in the history of Alaska mining, PacRim Coal will set a dangerous precedent if given permission by the State of Alaska to permanently destroy prime fish and game habitat and 4,000 acres of wetlands, tundra and forests that contain a rich biodiversity.

PacRim Coal proposes to initially strip mine 11 miles of Middle Creek, a section of river that Alaska Fish and Game describes as "significant to salmon." Experts agree that once a riverbed is extensively destroyed, it can never be reclaimed.

In respect to the effects of climate change, the sub bituminous coal that PacRim plans to ship to China would emit into the atmosphere 53 billion pounds of CO2 annually, exacerbating the problems of global warming, ocean acidification, and the health and productivity of Alaskan salmon.

PacRim's environmental threat from strip mining the Chuitna Watershed directly impacts the livelihood and well-being of the communities of Tyonek and Beluga, where the Dena'ina depend on a delicately balanced subsistence lifestyle. PacRim intends to strip mine coal near the two Native villages, thereby destroying their nourishing and intact traditional way of life.

In projecting China's need for Chuitna watershed strip-mined coal, we must take into account China's laudable efforts to become more energy independent and limit the production of greenhouse gases. For the past few years, China has significantly increased its access to Central Asia's natural gas. Recently, China constructed an 1,100-mile pipeline to transport natural gas from Turkmenistan to Xinjiang. By 2013, Turkmenistan will initiate a 30-year contract to supply China with 40 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year. That amount of natural gas is equivalent to half of China's current consumption and obviates the need for them to burn dirty coal that produces many times the CO2 as methane. In addition, another new Chinese pipeline is now transporting oil from Kazakhstan.

Thoughtful and responsible Alaskans adamantly oppose the sacrifice of our precious, self-sustaining fisheries to provide short-term profits to outside interests from their destructive mining and shipping of a nonrenewable, highly polluting fuel to China.

Marga Raskin, Homer



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