The wheels are coming off the bus, but nobody aboard can hear it because they’re busy squabbling.
A special two-day legislative session was canceled Sunday because the State Senate is as intractable as the governor and the House on an issue with serious potential economic and environmental consequences.
That’s OK, there’s still time to fix things. But time is in as short a supply in Juneau as statesmanship and leadership.
At issue is our state’s right to control safety and oil spill prevention standards for offshore rigs, as well as other coastal development issues.
Preserving Alaska’s Coastal Management Program is far more important than scoring political points, so the internecine warfare both within the Republican Party, among Republicans and Democrats and more broadly among the House and Senate needs to take an early summer vacation.
Before it is too late, the House and the Senate need to work with the governor and craft a compromise in which, unfortunately, someone will probably lose.
We just want to make sure the loser is not the entire state of Alaska.
The State Senate won’t budge in its efforts to push Gov. Sean Parnell into restricting his powers to remove Coastal Management commissioners only “for cause.”
The House, like Parnell, wants the governor to be able to remove commissioners for whatever reason.
The huge problem here is that unless one side or the other develops some Solomon-like wisdom in a hurry there will be no commission over which to haggle. It will evaporate without renewal by the Legislature due to its sunset clause.
A sunset to the Coastal Management Program and dissolution of its commission will do more than cost 33 jobs here in Juneau, it will cost us strict standards over offshore oil rigs. Along with our state’s support of oil exploration, we have strict and serious regulations that surpass the federal government’s own standards.
Alaska will lose the ability to have an official say in federal oil development policies. Any public official who stands by and lets any part of our state’s authority over how our major natural resource is harvested offshore must answer for that at the ballot box next time around — Alaska needs a seat and a strong voice at that table.
Our governor and our lieutenant governor talk tough about state’s rights and our need to have more control over exploitation of Alaska’s natural resources. The Coastal Management Program, which requires the federal government to work to Alaska’s standards under the National Coastal Zone Management Program, is at the very heart of the machinery we need to have that control.
It will take action, not press conferences and constituent newsletters, to bring all sides together before it’s too late. A unified action plan is needed, and our top politicians have to work together in the state’s best interests.
That’s the kind of thing that really keeps Alaska competitive.