Measure 2 backs states' rights, local control

COMPASS: Other points of view

By REP. PAUL SEATONAugust 16, 2012 

The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 was signed by President Nixon.

Alaska's Coastal Management Program was signed into law by Gov. Jay Hammond in 1977 and assisted development projects until 2011, when the state Legislature and the governor failed to extend the program. For 34 years, most of the oil developments on the North Slope and in Cook Inlet and all of the operating mines in Alaska were permitted under coastal management.

The federal act allows states to exercise control over development on federal lands and the outer continental shelf. Alaska's coastal management program gives local communities a strong voice in the development of their local resources. A coastal management program is the only real authority for the state and local communities to exercise effective consultation with the federal government, and to coordinate the permitting agencies for resolving conditions that may be required by different federal and state agencies.

We all know there are differences in the resources and impacts of development in different localities. Without coastal management, big government agencies apply one-size-fits-all standards and regulations to development and do not recognize the uniqueness of local area concerns. Coastal management is a states' rights issue, giving the state authority to impose conditions on federal development and giving local communities a voice to big state government agencies. The alternative to coastal management is big government control.

A huge concern for Alaska is the Offshore Aquaculture Act, which will establish federal fish farms in federal waters 3 to 200 miles off Alaska. Without an approved state coastal program, the federal government can proceed without consulting or considering state policy such as Alaska's ban on fish farming. Without coastal management, we open the doors to offshore fish farms and risk damage to our thriving wild fisheries.

Large corporations are behind the opposition to restoring our coastal management program and are opposing Ballot Measure 2. It is understandable that big corporations prefer to deal with federal or state agencies, where they only deal with national or state standards and can ignore local concerns.

But fears that state and local input into development projects will somehow put a drag on all development are overblown. Alaskans understand the importance of our oil and mining industries and support most development. We Alaskans are also proud of our permitting process, which ensures that resource development is responsible. Royal Dutch Shell Oil is the largest contributor to the "No" campaign (in the first APOC report) -- apparently wishing to circumvent Alaska's oil spill requirements and be held accountable only by the weaker federal requirements for oil spill prevention in the outer continental shelf.

As a legislator, I find a vast majority of problems that constituents bring forward have to do with requirements of big, non-responsive agencies. I have never had a coastal management program review problem or delay of a permit brought to me by a constituent or company.

No law is perfect, so our process allows for legislative amendments and regulatory clarification. If it's enacted, the language of Ballot Measure 2 can be amended as long as the amendments do not have the effect of repealing the spirit of the voter-passed law. Ballot Measure 2 establishes a policy board and state division similar to what we had in the past, and the same coastal districts and district plans, which all received federal and state approval. So bringing back coastal management can proceed much faster than the Legislature starting from scratch.

If it's enacted, I am certain that the Legislature will amend the measure to ensure that the coastal program meets industry and Alaska needs.

Ballot Measure 2 is a states' rights and local control issue. Coastal management gives a voice to small government entities and allows Alaskans to work collaboratively to move development forward. Without a coastal management program, the fate of our development is in the hands of big government and multinational corporations and their lawyers.

If you have any questions about Ballot Measure 2 email me at pkseaton@gmail.com.


Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, has served in the state House of Representatives since 2003.

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