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6/14/2019
Hey neighbor

The Golden Rule is an excellent prescription for remaining good neighbors.

The principle of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” works for  folks living in adjacent homes  — and for those living across a common border.

By and large, Alaska and Canada are good neighbors. But, like an otherwise cool uphill neighbor who starts neglecting his septic system, our neighbors are starting to worry us.

We refer to British Columbia and the tremendous natural resources that have been and will be developed for mining there.

Let it be said that we have nothing against mining done right. We’re proud of Alaska’s current operating mines, and look forward to the day when mineral deposits in southern Southeast Alaska are safely in operation.

What’s disconcerting with British Columbia is its apparent lack of interest in ensuring that mining done on its side of the border not affect the environment — and the economies and lifestyles that environment supports — on our side of the border.

State of Alaska, tribal, federal, industry and other entity representatives have worked to get Canada’s attention on this. There’s even a related memorandum of understanding between Alaska and British Columbia on the issue.

But still, Canada hasn’t seemed to take the issue as seriously as necessary for true protection of those downhill and downstream of current and potential mining areas.

The cancellation of an International Joint Commission meeting in April (because of a lack of a quorum) prompted U.S. senators from Alaska and three other states to write to British Columbia Premier John Horgan this week

The letter, signed by Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, in addition to Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho, Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines of Montana, and Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington, encourages standards of oversight and accountability in British Columbia similar to those that exist on the U.S side of the border.

“We write together to highlight efforts of the United States and continued plans of Congress to protect American interests in the face of potential environmental and economic impacts resulting from large-scale hardrock and coal mines in British Columbia, Canada,” states the letter to Horgan. “While we appreciate Canada’s engagement to date, we remain concerned about the lack of oversight of Canadian mining projects near multiple transboundary rivers that originate in B.C. and flow into our four U.S. states.”

The letter descibes a host of measures and initiatives on the U.S. side of the border, including a formal partnership with tribes and other agencies to develop and long-term water quality strategy for addressing contamination risks in transboundary rivers shared by British Columbia and Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

“This letter shows solidarity from our states and calls for greater protections for our transboundary watersheds,” Murkowski said in a separate prepared statement. “Reforms that ensure mining projects in British Columbia don’t impact Southeast Alaska are essential to protecting our way of life, and must include a system of financial assurances to assure sustained protections of vulnerable natural resources.”

The letter wasn’t hectoring or rude. It has more of a friendly, “Hey neighbor, let’s figure something out so we can avoid a problem” sort of vibe.

A good neighbor would get the hint and address the issue.

A not-so-good neighbor would let things slide, taking some big chances both for himself and the downhill neighbors. Maybe the septic system cuts loose, maybe it doesn’t.

But if it does, look out. The damage and relationships will be difficult, if not impossible, to mend.