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Trustees for Alaska responds to mining CEO's insult: 'Facts matter'

Victoria Clark

At the Miners Conference last week, Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse, the chief executive of NovaCopper, a Canadian Company that operates in Western Alaska, attacked Trustees for Alaska, calling me and my staff the “biggest hypocrites in the world” (reported in Alaska Dispatch Nov. 11, 2013). Apparently, this comment was made in response to a “luxury” car he saw near the Trustees for Alaska building with a vanity plate. He projected a photograph of the car during his recent Powerpoint presentation to the Alaska Miners Association when he made the gratuitous insult.

I have never met Mr. Van Nieuwenuyse. But I have written to him to let him know that the car that so offended him is not owned by anyone working at Trustees. But more importantly, it is not relevant to what we do and who we represent. Trustees for Alaska is a non-profit law firm that provides legal help on important environmental issues to communities, individuals, and organizations that cannot otherwise afford it. Had we been invited, we would have considered attending the conference and welcomed discussion of pressing resource issues and legal regulation of large mine projects.

Trustees for Alaska as an organization does try to promote responsible resource use. We do not provide staff parking to encourage staff to use alternative forms of transportation. Most of our staff regularly arrive at work on foot or bike. We won the 2013 Summer Commuter Challenge for the small business category, sponsored by Bicycle Commuters of Anchorage. And one of our attorneys won the prize for the most miles walked during the challenge (144 miles!).

We are very proud of the work we do and we strive to be collegial and professional to everyone in the community. I have written to Mr. Van Nieuwenhuyse in an attempt to encourage civil discourse on important resource issues without this type of baseless ad hominem attack.

Victoria Clark is executive director of Trustees for Alaska, a non-profit, public-interest environmental law firm that provides legal counsel to diverse constituencies on environmental policy issues facing Alaska.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.