"Citizen ownership of the resources is essential," Governor Hickel explained, "to ensure that the citizens – and not Multinational Corporations or an elite few – will benefit from the development of those resources." This is the essence of Governor Hickel's philosophy that Alaska should conduct itself as an 'Owner State'.
As many Alaskans familiar with our statehood history know, there is a fundamental difference between Governor Hickel's vision of Alaska as an 'Owner State' and that of ever being owned by outside interests. We didn't like indigenous lands owned by the federal government so we pushed for Alaska Native claims. We didn't like all our offshore waters being heavily fished by uncontrolled foreign interests, so Senator Stevens delivered the Magnuson-Stevens Act extending fishing rights to 200 miles.
As Alaskans, we have a history of disliking our lands and resources being under the control of outside interests, whether through government policy or market conditions. Yet the powers to be (Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Resource Development Council, Alaska Tea Party etc.) are acting contrary to our historical interest as an owner state and instead are opening wide the doors of foreign influence. This is what the well-financed campaign against the coastal management initiative portends. Allow me to explain.
According to the most recent reports (July 30) required by the Alaska Public Offices Commission, Outside interests have so far contributed almost 70 percent of the opposition's massive war chest of $767,000. This compares with the initiative supporters raising $64,000 from 99.7 percent Alaskans. Clearly this is a David v. Goliath set-up.
But what is more unsettling is where the money comes from. More than $500,000 comes from companies headquartered outside Alaska or even outside the U.S. The bottom line of this scenario is that foreign companies are about to barrage your local TV and radio stations to scare you into voting against the coastal management initiative. Yet you will not hear the truth about coastal management on radio or TV because the Alaska Sea Party, made of individual Alaskans, does not have the funds to wage a media campaign. But there is plenty of information about the initiative easily accessible at www.alaskacoastalmanagement.org. It is worth seeing why over 40 mayors and legislators enthusiastically support the initiative.
Their main reasons are simple and resonate with our statehood values. The coastal management initiative is
- Pro-Alaska in that the federal Coastal Management Act is the ONLY federal law requiring the federal government to be consistent with state approved coastal plans.
- Pro-Community because coastal communities would have a say in how natural resources are responsibly developed.
- Pro-Development by making permitting easier and resolving issues so development can proceed with fewer hurdles.
So why are the international companies trying to buy Alaska's coastal management ballot initiative this primary election? Is it because they don't want coastal communities to have a say in what constitutes responsible development? From my experience in dealing with international corporations, they prefer to simplify their governmental transactions; to deal with just one governmental entity and not multiple government interests, like local municipalities. To their way of thinking, limiting the voice of Alaska's coastal communities in how their coastal resources are developed and protected, simplifies the permit process.
No coastal management program -- no local venue to influence state and federal permits. No coastal management program -- no state venue to influence federal permits. This is where we begin to slide from being an owner state to an owned state if the 'Vote No on 2' group of multinational companies prevail at the ballot box this August 28th.
In deciding whether to risk this slide, it is important to note that for the 34 years Alaska had a coastal management program, the entire North Slope and Cook Inlet oil and gas fields were developed, major mines like Red Dog and Greens Creek were opened, and here in Juneau the cruise industry flourished with new docks and infrastructure. Here in Alaska, coastal management did not stop development; it shaped it to balance competing needs. It allowed Alaskans to have input all the way to the federal government.
Let's not risk losing our voice and our right to shape development just because large multinational companies want to deal with less government. If the initiative has some technical issues, let's have the legislature fine tune it when they convene next. Let's not make technical concerns the reason not to do something good for Alaska. Let's not risk becoming an owned state. Instead, let's be true to our statehood values and the vision of Alaska as an owner state by voting 'Yes' to restore Alaska's coastal management program. It worked for us before and it can work for Alaska again.
Kate Troll is a long-time Alaskan with more than 22 years of experience in fisheries, coastal and energy policy.
The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.