By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK
The Alaska Supreme Court signed an order today that dismisses the more controversial of two embattled "Clean Water" ballot initiatives aimed at blocking the proposed Pebble copper and gold mine in Southwest Alaska.
The court agreed to dismiss a pending case that would have been the final chapter in a legal dispute over Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell's finding last year that the "Clean Water 1" initiative was unconstitutional.
"Clean Water 1" was one of two initiatives filed by Pebble opponents to limit water pollution discharges from large mines. Voters petitioned successfully to place both of the initiatives on the ballot. The mining industry and some Native organizations sued to block both of them.
The sponsors of "Clean Water 1" recently asked Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell to pull their proposed law, explaining that it was too divisive and they wanted to put all their energy into the less-stringent initiative, called Ballot Measure 4.
So far Parnell has not acted on that request. Today's order by the Supreme Court makes that a moot point, according to lawyers involved in the case.
The ruling means that all Parnell needs to do is "comply with the court order" that reinstates his own original finding, said Jeff Feldman, an attorney for the initiative sponsors, John Holman, Jack Hobson and Luki Akelkok.
The Supreme Court made its decision after the "Clean Water 1" sponsors and Parnell filed a motion last week asking the court to drop their appeals of conflicting lower court rulings on the initiative.
Now, Ballot Measure 4 is the only one in legal limbo.
Pending a Supreme Court ruling, it is scheduled to appear on the statewide election ballot in August.
The Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing for oral arguments on Ballot Measure 4 next Monday.