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My Turn: Redefining the Red Dog Mine debate

Posted: Thursday, October 16, 2003

The Anchorage Daily News' Oct. 11 editorial asked "When federal law says a new power plant at Alaska's Red Dog Mine has to use the best available anti-pollution technology, who gets the final word on what is 'best' - the state or the federal government?" The editorial endorsed the opinion of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals indicating it "makes perfect sense" that the feds prevail. Wrong. According to the Constitution of the United States, Section 8, Congress does not have the authority to make laws about mines in Alaska, nor does any federal administration have the authority to enforce them. The assumption that Congress does have that authority is at the heart of the battle between conservatives and liberals in our very different approaches to government in Alaska and the rest of the United States. This same 9th Circuit outlawed God in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Section 8 of the Constitution's empowerment clause grants Congress the ability to enact laws for taxation, paying debts of the country, and providing for the common defense and general welfare of the U.S. Section 8 lists specific areas of constitutional authority granted to Congress, including the ability to enact laws to borrow money; to regulate international and interstate commerce; to raise a militia; and so on. Congress can "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof." "Foregoing powers" are those powers listed, the only ones delegated to Congress.

Amendment 10 to the Constitution is even more clear: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." The Constitution does not grant Congress or any administration the right to usurp a state, governing within its boundaries. This is a critical issue to Alaska. Our economy has been stymied for decades by an overreaching federal government.

After years of aggressive federal expansion by successive administrations backed by liberal courts, the federal government now has the audacity to proclaim its authority over the Red Dog Mine? Rather than accept this federal intrusion, Alaskans must fight to reestablish our equal partnership with the federal government. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton - these men risked their lives and pledged their fortunes to defend the states rights now being denied.

The Clinton Administration with the complicity of the Knowles Administration allowed this power grab to catapult forward at a heavy cost to the Alaskan economy. The Murkowski Administration is correct in asserting Alaska's rights - equal to all others in our nation. President Ronald Reagan reminded us that in America, power does not flow from Washington to the states, but instead from the states to Washington.

After reading the Red Dog editorial, I reread the United States Constitution in its entirety. Our founding fathers knew exactly what they were doing limiting power in Washington, D.C. They'd just rejected King George and did not want a repeat with President George. The EPA is way off base. The Supreme Court should firmly reassert Alaska's Constitution rights and advise the 9th Circuit to themselves reread the Constitution.

• Jim Crawford is an Anchorage resident and former chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska.



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