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Beware the Lurking Legislative Tsunami, "Alaska Northern Waters Task Force", HCR 22 & SCR 17 ... Even As We Keep One Wary Eye On the Dangerous Alaska Coastal Policy Board (SB4)

OP-ED Heads Up, Readers: It's Not Over Until its Over!

by Dave Harbour

(See 2. below)

1.  Yesterday (Scroll down) we commented on how close Alaska's Legislature is to transferring a key, constitutional authority of Alaska State Government to rural political entities.  The Alaska Standard also carried this commentary on how creation of a coastal policy board concept could violate Alaska's constitution, compromise the public interest, engender corruption, further cripple Alaska's investment climate and diminish future state jobs and revenue. We should also note that while some legislators are succumbing to rural political pressure tactics, some are--thankfully--not.  Also, while some rural entities are supporting the SB4 concept, a number of important Alaska Native Regional Corporations oppose that initiative, including Calista Corporation.  Continuing in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, one notes the outstanding comments of other important constituencies on this issue, below:
  • June McAtee, Vice President, Land & Natural Resources, Calista Corporation, letter.
  • Pete Slaiby, Vice President of Shell Alaska, letter.
  • A joint opposition from the Associated General Contractors, Alaska Miners Association, Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, Alaska Trucking Association, Associated Builders and Contractors, Council of Alaska Producers, Resource Development Council, and the Alliance.
2.  Today, we remind readers that the dark initiative to control Alaska's future is not limited to the details embedded in SB4, the subject of yesterday's commentary.  Indeed, in the closing hours of the Legislature this week-end, Alaska's future could be partly compromised by passage of SB4 or the Concurrent Resolutions described below--or completely compromised by passage of both the bill and the concurrent resolution.    (For details click, 'Read More', below)
  • CS for House Concurrent Resolution No. 22(FIN), establishes the Alaska Northern Waters Task Force.  (Also see, the Senate companion, SCR17).  This devious and unnoticed little resolution has moved through its House committees of referral.  One could suppose that if the SB4 effort, above, fails as it rightfully should, proponents could say, "Well, you didn't agree with us on creating a new statutory 'board' but surely you'll cast us a crumb in form of a harmless little House resolution that gives us very limited, but some, additional voice in Arctic policy matters."  And, who could be heartless enough to deny the defeated suitors this small favor?
  • Here is what this dangerous, sovereignty eroding, science-lacking, back-up resolution would do.
    • First, in all of the 'Whereas' statements, Legislators establish many principles, including their AGREEMENT that:
      • Global warming has depleted Arctic sea ice, and
      • the 9% annual rate of depletion is accelerating, and
      • that phenomenon affects life and safety of people and polar bears, and
      • melting ice is increasing ocean industries and government activity, and
      • more oil and gas and mineral 'commercial activities' will affect communities, businesses and 'the state', and
      • Alaska has no plan for confronting these challenges or working with various federal and international 'bodies' working to form a 'commission' to deal with these changing ocean patterns, opportunities and problems, and
      • Alaska should be involved in forming this commission to develop a comprehensive plan addressing 'warming oceans' along with economic, ecological and security 'effects', and
      • Alaska is benefited by 'a comprehensive plan to address the warming ocean, including the economic, ecological, and security effects'.
    • Second, in the 'Be It Resolved' conclusions, Legislators agree to:

      • create their own Alaska Northern Waters Task Force that is not subject to Governor Sean Parnell's veto pen, and
      • that so-called Task Force will cleverly consist of 2 Senators, 2 Representatives, 7 public members appointed by the Senate President and House Speaker (the majority of whom must reside in coastal areas), and Legislators on the task force--not the usual majority of members--will appoint the chairman, and
      • the Chairman can 'assign' staff (presumably from Legislative budgets), and
      • public members receive per diem and travel expenses, suggesting that legislative members will receive their own, normal legislative per diem and travel expenses, and
      • the Task Force can meet all during the year, even during legislative sessions for the purpose of:

        • working to create a state/federal commission, 'responsible for overseeing the development of state and federal northern ocean waters', and
        • exercising 'regional coordination, cooperation, and outreach, 'to keep local stakeholders informed....', and
        • '...coordinate areas of mutual concern for federal, state, and local agencies...,' and, 'international interests', and
        • conduct hearings 'all over the place' (my words), and
        • deliver preliminary and final reports to the Legislature in 2012 in preparation for extension of their work thereafter.

 

Our Conclusion

One is dumbstruck that this issue has not been on the front page of every Alaskan newspaper and on many recent radio and television news programs.

 

It comes directly out of the loose-leaf strategy books of international environmental groups.  The growing strength of such groups is apparent with the introduction of this sort of devious legislation which has many dangerous if not fatal results.  Adoption of this seemingly innocuous resolution would:

 

  • Give anti-development groups evidence that the Alaska State Legislature agrees with the dubious science espoused by extreme global warming alarmists; and
  • validate that Alaska's leaders think this thesis produces harm to Alaska's people, wildlife and government; and
  • establish that Alaska's leaders believe the state has no plan to confront global warming and needs a plan; and
  • create by legislative fiat--while bypassing the Administration's intervention--a legislatively created Task Force mechanism to deal with the perceived 'problem' (clearly controlled by rural, coastal interests); and
  • verify that Alaska's leaders believe this process to confront global warming 'benefits' the state; and
  • institutionalize a new, hard to control entity which brandishes the principles noted above as justification for holding expensive, year-long hearings, hiring 'legislative' staff, traveling to international meetings and festivals, emboldened and credentialed to negotiate on Alaska's behalf with international environmental organizations, foreign governments and the Federal government; and
  • interfere with and delay development projects; and
  • enable coordination with the White House initiative on Ocean Policy, which the Parnell Administration and all thoughtful Alaskans oppose; and
  • confuse policy makers throughout Alaska, the United States and the world community as to just who makes policy for Alaska: this Task Force with a legislative resolution, the Legislature, the Governor...or who?

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