The future of America's streams, rivers and lakes is on the agenda of U.S. Supreme Court justices this Monday, Jan. 12, when they hear arguments on whether a pristine Alaskan lake may be killed by operators of Kensington gold mine. Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo, who has kept the lake alive through a series of successful battles in lower courts, will again take the lead in this final showdown -- but the stakes have become much greater. "The whole reason Congress passed the Clean Water Act was to stop turning our lakes and rivers into industrial waste dumps," Waldo said. "The Bush Administration selected the Kensington Mine to test the limits of the Clean Water Act. The Army Corps had never issued a permit like this before." That the high court even agreed to review the case is troubling because of the damage that may be inflicted on the federal Clean Water Act. A ruling in favor of the dumping scheme would allow reinterpretation of the Act so that mining waste could be dumped into waterways throughout the United States. Should the worst happen, defenders of the country's waterways would almost certainly have to rely on Congress and the Obama administration for relief. The case is being closely followed in Alaska because of its immediate implications for Pebble Mine, a massive gold mine proposed for development above the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the world's richest sockeye salmon fishery.
Walt Patterson is a physicist by training, an entertaining and lucid writer (he seldom misses a chance at wordplay -- note the title of this book), a fan of jazz and baseball and real ale, and an incisive popularizer of important but complicated matters. And yes, he's my friend. Remind me to tell you some day about several hours we spent years ago in the bookstores on and near Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley, scouring dusty shelves for out-of-print popular books on atomic energy, The Atom Is Your Friend and such.