A social-economic study is critical for understanding and preparing for the impacts that a project would have on the local community (Juneau). This type of study is not included in the state or federal permitting processes and would be absent without the current ordinance.
Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Federal agencies only a perform a cost-benefit analysis and only on Federal lands.
NEPA only determines whether a particular project is economically feasible. If the anticipated benefits exceed the projected costs, an agency is justified in recommending the project, since theoretically; there will be a net economic gain to society. The costs are only seen as ECONOMIC costs, so intangibles such environmental degradation, social fabric and consistency, quality of life, income stratification, etc. are impossible to assign a monetary value, so are not considered. How much is it worth in dollars to walk the Perseverance or Herbert Glacier trails?
Keep in mind that around 95% of any development at the AJ or Treadwell properties will not have a federal connection because they are on private lands. Only actions on the tidelands, wetlands (ACOE) or a discharge into a surface water will trigger a cost-benefit NEPA analysis.
The ordinance as written can look at social-economic costs such as increased crime, stress on housing availability, and access to affordable daycare, visual ascetics, and quality of life. It allows the Planning Commission to set conditions to mitigate these impacts to the residents and city government. As the Jade North Report commissioned by CBJ states: “State and Federal agencies generally do not have the authority to directly mitigate socioeconomic effects on local communities, and this is typically an appropriate role for local government.”
Mining is a high-risk industry. Many other high-risk industries and fields such as fuel depots, airlines, and law enforcement are subject to extra scrutiny. The power to examine the intangible impacts to our social fabric from large mines within the CBJ needs to be retained.