The question before the Alaska Supreme Court Tuesday morning seemed simple: Does extensive exploration work for the proposed Pebble mine amount to merely a temporary use of land that can be turned back to how it was, or is it significant enough to trigger protections for public good provided in the state Constitution?
That was the central issue argued in the first round of a multi-pronged Pebble-themed day at the Supreme Court. In the afternoon, justices heard arguments over whether the citizens and environmental groups on the losing side owes legal fees and whether the source of the money to bring the environmental challenge in court must be revealed.
The case had its origins in a lawsuit filed by a group that includes former First Lady Bella Hammond and Alaska constitutional delegate Vic Fischer. They sued the state Department of Natural Resources in July 2009, asserting the state was in effect disposing of state lands without public notice or any finding that it was managing the land for the common good, and therefore violating the Alaska Constitution.
Pebble later joined the suit on the state's side.