State’s Legislature Is On the Brink of Serving A Slice of Alaska’s Sovereignty to The North Slope Borough and Coastal Villages – TransCanada President Retires


See our earlier warning:

Alaska Dispatch by Rena Delbridge.  The push by rural lawmakers for greater control of development in coastal areas throttledup Wednesday, as a Senate panel fast-forwarded a bill to a full floor debate.  But Gov. Sean Parnell (NGP Photo-r) remains as steadfastly against such a bill as ever, saying he simply cannot support handing over control of resources like oil, gas and timber, to local people when those resources belong to the state and play an important role in Alaska’s economic future.  Following the tense but fast Senate Finance hearing on SB4, by Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, Parnell met with a key player in the push, North Slope Borough Mayor Edward Itta (NGP Photo-l).  

Today Alaska Is On The Brink

The bombastic and sour temperament radiated in recent days by rural, elected leaders raises presentiment of coming misbehavior. 
Dave Harbour
Over the last few days we have seen otherwise restrained and thoughtful rural lawmakers working themselves into a lather as they demand, via Senate Bill 4, a ‘voice’ in coastal development decisions.  They have lost control of their emotions, yelled at respectful witnesses and intimidated those who might be influenced by bullying tactics.

At the heart of the Legislature’s 11th hour controversy–as Members move toward adjournment next weekend–is a power grab by the North Slope Borough which has aligned itself with extreme environmental activists in recent lawsuits that have delayed Outer Continental Shelf developments so critical to Alaska’s future.  While SB4 has evolved in language almost daily for the last few days–keeping everyone off balance–its basic tenants are that a coastal management ‘board’ would be established that would insert itself into the permitting process and future operations of coastal-related development projects.  The board would not have an advisory role; it would actually — depending on the SB4 version du jour — have the ability to quash Department of Natural Resources settlement of issues with developers, veto regulations and exercise more death-by-a-thousand-cuts (Alaska style) delay on projects.  
One asks, ‘to what end?’  Existing laws and coastal management regulations may be imperfect–like all of our democratically produced rules–but they do allow for due process and they do allow anyone with a voice or written thought to be heard or read.  It is incorrect at best and intellectually dishonest at worst — and wholly ironic — for the SB4 advocates to be screaming at their colleagues, the administration and the world in general that they have no "voice".

So, where does that leave us?

  • Rural residents prize their traditional, commercial fishing and subsistence way of life.  But many in such areas fail to acknowledge that the oil and gas industry provides the bloated revenue streams which both enable subsistence and support port infrastructure and services upon which the commercial fishing and village culture depends.  This coastal management board concept could indeed give the villages greater ‘voice’ but more likely will have the practical effect of slowing projects needed to provide funds that support the existing culture.
  • Providing a controlling ‘voice’ in development activity that overshadows Alaska’s state government agencies, essentially transfers sovereignty from State to coastal residents.  Allowing local interests to control development occurring in their areas Balkanizes Alaska, deprives all Alaskans of the expectation their Constitution provides of developing resources for the maximum benefit of the people.  One would think it indisputable that the Constitution’s reference to ‘people’ means ‘all people in the state’, not ‘some people in certain areas’.  
  • In Arctic areas, large projects would primarily consist of mining and oil & gas activities.  Delay of such activities would be inevitable with imposition of a new, controlling bureaucracy that would unquestionably devote more loyalty to ‘local’ interests, than the ‘public interest’.  The potential for delay heightens the risk any potential investor applies to his/her ‘due diligence’ investment decisions. Increasing risk, results in fewer investments and a more modest commitment of resource to particular investments.  That increased attack on the attractiveness of Alaska’s investment climate decreases jobs and opportunities for coastal and other areas, decreases state revenues that could benefit all of Alaska and affects investments in other parts of the state, as well.
  • More concerning than the transfer of sovereignty to local areas, is the increased, ever-present prospect for human misbehavior.  With the ability to choke development projects, the regional boards will have temptations and the ability to intimidate companies–in some cases after investment decisions have been made.  The boards will also have increased power over the Legislature and Administration: the ability to threaten certain exercises of board power when regional demands for unrelated benefits are not met.  The bombastic and sour temperament radiated in recent days by rural, elected leaders gives us little comfort; indeed, it raises presentiment of future misbehavior. 
  • Of greatest concern is that SB4 supporters have been said to threaten the Senate and House leadership with a democrat takeover next year if their demands are not met.  If true, this is the sort of intimidation we most recently witnessed with passage of the Health Bill in Congress.  But on a local basis, if House and Senate leaders allow this transfer of sovereignty to breathe life into this monstrous abuse of power, they will be guilty of accepting bribery after succumbing to blackmail–for they will personally benefit from a vote that clearly violates the public interest.  Hopefully, right thinking republicans and democrats will reject the SB4 concept in any form because it is wrong, and in the process accept from the majority of citizens our appreciation for confronting bullies with integrity and solidarity.

Governor Sean Parnell is courageously opposing this attempt of rural officials to subvert Alaska’s constitution and expropriate a slice of Alaska’s sovereignty.  His Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Larry Hartig (NGP Photo), conducted himself with honor in yesterday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing.  The Department of Natural Resource Coastal Management Director, Randy Bates, exhibited statesmanlike courage–a day earlier.  Under withering and unjustified rebukes of Senators Donny Olson and Lyman Hoffman Bates reflected great credit on the Administration and his own abilities.

Yes, today Alaska is on the brink of civil war on several fronts, the most recent being the unjustified, undignified, predatory, and economically suicidal initiative by rural elected leaders to transfer power and resource decision making from all people’s legislature and administration to their local people’s local boards.

Because many honest lawmakers and Alaskans everywhere oppose the SB4 concept does not make them racist, anti-rural or mean-spirited.  It makes them the adults in the room who withstand intimidation to courageously do the right thing for all citizens. 

If a political divide between rural and urban Alaska widens, it will be on the hands of the bullies, not the bullied.

(Alaska Standard Version Here)


See today’s email alert!

Trading Markets.  TransCanada Corporation (TSX: TRP | Quote | Chart |News | PowerRating)(NYSE:TRP) (TransCanada) today announced Hal Kvisle’s retirement as president and chief executive officer (CEO) effective June 30, 2010. Russ Girling, currently chief operating officer (COO), will succeed Mr. Kvisle as president and chief executive officer on July 1, 2010. Mr. Kvisle will assist Mr. Girling with the transition through August 31, 2010 and will be available as an advisor to Mr. Girling thereafter.


  1. Tom McGrath April 15, 2010 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    Surely Governor Parnell would veto the Coastal Zone Management idea if it were to pass the legislature.

    A country is comprised of it’s borders, it’s common language and it’s common customs. We no longer protect our borders, judges have ruled that English only is illegal and a significant part of our population thinks of themselves as Spanish American, African American, etc. Is there a United States of America anymore?

    • Dave Harbour April 15, 2010 at 10:55 pm - Reply

      Based on the thoughtful, logical and courageous presentations made by Governor Parnell’s DNR and DEC representatives this week, I believe he has correctly concluded that this bill violates the public interest and should be vetoed if adopted by the House and Senate.

  2. Eric Britten April 15, 2010 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    Hi, Dave: I have contacted the Senate re. SB4 and stated that there is no need for the proposed Alaska Coastal Policy Board as those stakeholders have plenty of opportunity to provide input on coastal issues under the current structure. Hope it helps. Regards, Eric.

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