Federal judge rules against Wishbone Hill Mine

It’s been a rough week for Alaska coal projects. Barely a week ago, the company behind the massive proposed Chuitna coal project near Cook Inlet announced it has halted permitting.

Now, a federal judge has ruled against Usibelli Coal in a case involving the proposed Wishbone Hill Mine east of Palmer.

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Judge Sharon Gleason ruled last summer that the mine’s permit might not be valid, and should be sent back to the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, or OSM. Gleason said that federal law sets a deadline for mining activity to begin for a permit to remain valid, and Usibelli had not begun mining within that timeframe. The OSM later determined that the Alaska Department of Natural Resources had been in error in renewing the permit.

Usibelli Coal and the State of Alaska appealed that ruling. But Thursday, Judge Gleason denied a procedural request required for the case to be sent to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Gleason’s decision places the future of Wishbone Hill, for now, is back in the hands of the federal regulators.

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