Tuesday, December 10, 2013

HB 77 - Fast Tracking the Destruction of a Salmon Stream

I'm willing to accept that reasonable people can disagree about most things and I think it's a good to be open to divergent ideas. On Monday evening, state senator Peter Micciche held a town-hall meeting at the borough building in Soldotna and brought along Ed Fogels, a deputy commissioner at the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and Cora Campbell, the commissioner of the department of Fish and Game to present the state's argument for trying to have HB 77 become state law.

But from the get-go, it was obvious that the concept of Integrity does not compute with many of our elected and appointed officials. 

Mr Fogels, stated that the bill came from the regular folks in the DNR in an attempt to streamline the permitting process to 'advance the public interest'. He talked about how backlogged the DNR was in granting permits, but almost in the next second, he admitted that they've been able to reduce the wait time quite a bit. What he didn't mention was that the court, responding to Gov. Parnell and the state's argument that it didn't have the personnel to deal with permitting was BS. I think that Mr. Fogel was hoping he was dealing with an ill-informed crowd as he glossed over the scary parts of HB 77. But every person who came forth to testify about 77, called him on the intent and the language of the bill. 

For her part, Cora Campbell, who does not have a background in fish or wildlife research or management, assured the crowd that just because HB 77 would allow for private citizens to be ignored and salmon streams to be raped, Fish and Game would at least do their part to review any permit that might allow that. 

Conspicuous by their absence were representatives Mike Chenault and Kurt Olson, who both voted for the bill. Neither really have the stones to face a crowd that might disagree with them - and that would be 100% of the folks in the audience. And it just wasn't tree-huggers out there. Yeah, both of them can be dismissive of people who disagree, but they both know that they can't support their views with logic or truth, so of course neither of them nor their spokespersons were there.

Paul Seaton, the representative from the southern peninsula did attend and spoke out about all the problems he had with 77. When a republican has problems with a proposal that fast-tracks development, you know the bill has flaws. Paul used up his allotted two minutes pointing out the nefarious language of the bill and he was just getting warmed up. I don't always agree with Paul, but he makes the short list of Alaskan Republicans who have integrity. 

Anyway - here's a list of the items in 77 that are particularly evil.

1) It's Racist. It does not recognize that tribal governments are governmental agencies and prohibits them from filing water reservation rights. 
2) It Takes away Individual Rights. Citizens will no longer be able to challenge government decisions. Marge Hayes made a good point at the meeting. Democracy is messy, but it's the foundation of our country. Dictatorships are efficient. Do we really want to give up our personal rights and let those with money and influence be in total control?
3)It lets the State Operate in Secret. Public meetings would be held concerning broad regional plans, but when a specific area plan is developed, there would be no public input.
4)It fast-tracks one of the most hideous business plans that exists on the planet. This is what the state wants to happen: put a surface strip coal mine on Chuitna River watershed, an anadromous salmon stream, mine a low-quality coal and sell it to China. China will use the coal to power their factories and take away jobs from the US. And of course, the additional pollution from burning this low-grade coal gets blown eastward, over the Pacific Ocean and would contribute to acid rain, global warming, mercury in fish, and all sorts of environmental damage.  The last I talked to Peter Micciche, he supported this plan. 
5) It grants too much power to political appointees. The director of DNR, who is appointed by the governor might not have any background in natural resources. Oh, someone like the current acting commissioner, Joe Balish, who has a degree in political science. Their decision on development would be final. 

HB 77 is simply state overreach. It takes away the rights of local communities and individuals to have a voice in how their regions will be developed.

The bill is before the senate and Mr Micciche may very well cast the deciding vote on 77. Anyone want to take any bets on what he'll do?

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