Last week, the U.S. Senate Energy Committee passed 26 bills out of the committee. Senate Bill 881, the Sealaska Bill, was not in this big group of lands bills.
The Sealaska Bill is currently the same as it was when it had its hearings in the Senate and the House in October and March, and caused widespread concern from widely varied viewpoints. The bill remains highly controversial throughout the region.
There have been significant changes proposed by Senator Lisa Murkowski's staff, but none of these changes have been approved by the Senator, presented to the Committee or even drafted into bill form. The Sealaska bill could look like the original bill, like any one of the counter proposals to the bill, or something completely different with elements from anywhere.
No one knows what version of the bill, if any, will emerge from the Senate Energy Committee in the short time left in this Congress. There will be very little time left in this Congress for any sort of reasonable review or public comment on the revisions. There will be little or no opportunity to change specific provisions of the bill to address legitimate concerns.
Senate Bill 881 would change Southeast Alaska dramatically, and this lack of public review on the specific provisions of the proposal should doom it to failure in this Congress. We should not be rushing to a half-baked solution to a decades-old issue.
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