To the editor:
Like many others, I am disappointed in those who voiced opposition to a Mat-Su Borough Assembly resolution that called for a Comprehensive Health Impact Assessment (HIA) for the proposed Wishbone Hill coal mine.
The rapid HIA is terribly inadequate, having identified major data gaps. There are more than 125 residences within one mile of the potential blasting site of this mine, including my own home on Buffalo Mine Road located about a quarter-mile from this site. There are so many places for sale on Buffalo Mine Road, with new “for sale” signs popping up on a regular basis. It seems that nothing is selling, which is not much of a surprise given this context.
What is a surprise is that that a banker (Craig Thorn with First National Bank Alaska) and two realtors (Kibe Lucas with Keller Williams Realty and Mark Lee with Lee Realty) would oppose a comprehensive HIA. Wouldn’t this be useful to address concerns of any would-be buyers who may be holding back because of the coal mine? Or, do they have another explanation as to why so many people want to sell and no one wants to buy?
I am also interested to know more about the Mat-Su Business Alliance (is anyone willing to say which businesses belong to this alliance?) and its reasons for opposing a comprehensive HIA.
Marvin Yoder, president of MSBA, indicated that the request for a comprehensive HIA was premature because the process was not yet complete for the rapid HIA. This reasoning is weak, since the rapid HIA identified significant problems as well as major data gaps. Feedback was being requested on the rapid HIA, meaning that the resolution was a timely request for a comprehensive study.
Given that the permitting of the Wishbone coal mine is stalled at least in part due to lack of data, a comprehensive HIA makes sense since it could provide important data and thereby assist in the permitting process. It makes no sense that assembly members Steve Colligan, Ron Arvin, Noel Woods, Darcie Salmon and borough mayor Larry DeVilbiss would reject a resolution in favor of a comprehensive HIA. It makes no sense that businesses and realtors in the Mat-Su Valley would disapprove of a comprehensive HIA. It makes no sense that First National Bank Alaska would oppose a resolution calling for a comprehensive HIA.
They have all sent a message to the residents of the Valley that our health and welfare are unimportant, if not irrelevant.