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Coastal program lapse would hurt Alaskans

As House representatives from among the largest coastal regions in the state, we are compelled to urge Gov. Parnell to call the Legislature into a two-day special session before the Alaska Coastal Management Program (ACMP) is allowed to expire on June 30. Because, according to law, the governor must provide at least 30 days notice to the Legislature before such a session can begin, he must act quickly.

For all the ACMP's flaws, it is the only process we have that streamlines development by bringing all parties to the table, including industry, multiple state agencies, local municipalities, tribal entities and yes the feds. A "consistency determination" under the ACMP is a systematic process to assure that state, local and federal regulations and policies work together, not in conflict, so that sensibly regulated and collectively advantageous economic activity can progress.

The ACMP is irreplaceable as a means for the state to influence federal activities on coastal lands and on the Outer Continental Shelf. If the program were to terminate, the state would not only sacrifice dozens of jobs and millions of dollars in federal receipts, but it would also surrender an invaluable tool to shape -- according to Alaska's interests -- federal decision making on our coasts and off our shores.

Frustration with federal government decisions regarding development in Alaska has been a mainstay of Gov. Parnell's administration and an abiding theme in the Legislature. Why, then, would we surrender one of the only tools we have that gives us a say -- on both the state and local levels -- in the feds' activities here?

The ACMP also provides an essential process to build consensus among stakeholders -- the concord necessary to advance responsible development. Without this process, we risk significantly increased delays in furthering economic activity needed to strengthen Alaska. Given the federal government's recent promise to accelerate oil and gas exploration off Alaska's coast, this is not the time for the state to relinquish its most powerful tool for guarding its interests and forging consensus.

Gov. Parnell must take action now. If, after the ACMP ends, the state in its remorse seeks to reinstate the program, there would be a multimillion-dollar price tag attached -- dollars to pay for years of jumping through regulatory hoops to achieve program approval, while federal activities continue without Alaska having a say in them. Why is it that we prevail upon the governor rather than call on our colleagues in the House and Senate to convene a special session? Quite simply, it is too unlikely that the necessary two-thirds vote in each legislative body would be successful at this juncture. But the simple majority votes to keep this valuable program would be easily achieved. In the final heated hours of the recent special session, the House was only one vote away from reauthorizing the ACMP. We believe that if the House and Senate are reconvened to consider this single issue, a greater understanding on the part of all lawmakers of what's truly at stake will ensure that an acceptable agreement is reached, the ACMP is continued, and Alaska's interests are upheld.

Thus, it rests with Gov. Parnell to call a special session to preserve this program and retain Alaska's influence on federal government decisions when it comes to advancing well managed, broadly beneficial utilization of our coastal and OCS resources. We urge him to do so.

Rep. Reggie Joule represents Kotzebue, Barrow and the North Slope; Rep. Bryce Edgmon represents Dillingham, Bristol Bay and the Aleutian Chain; and Rep. Bob Herron represents Bethel and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in the state House.