It has been my experience that Alaskans support sensible, responsible development of the state’s natural resources to grow jobs and prosperity. Unfortunately, Ballot Measure 2 would work against all that, leaving Alaska’s future very much in the hands of unelected bureaucrats accountable to no one.
For those of us on the Kenai Peninsula, as in much of Alaska, the measure could be an outright disaster. It could end Cook Inlet oil and gas development and greatly affect property rights and development in our coastal communities — and in communities that are miles from the coastline. It could affect our fisheries and other industries, as well. We simply cannot afford that.
Coastal Zone Management is not as simple as voting yes or no in the ballot box. The House of Representatives worked diligently to develop a program that met the needs of local communities, while providing a framework for responsible development to occur with clear standards and timelines for the permitting process. Our bill passed by a vote of 40-0. During my time in the Legislature, it is rare to have a 40-0 vote on such an important policy issue for the state.
The measure before you on August 28 is being sold by its supporters as a simple replacement for the state’s Coastal Zone Management Program that the Senate allowed to sunset last year. Let me assure you it is not. Ballot Measure 2 is a complex nightmare of regulations yet unwritten. It is a far cry from the program Alaska used until June 2011 and it is the longest, most complex ballot measure ever to go before Alaskans since statehood.
At a cost of more than $5 million, Ballot Measure 2 could create three new bureaucracies with wide-ranging and ill-defined powers. Their members would be unelected and outside the reach of the Alaska Legislature.
As Alaskans support development, they also, in my view, support coastal zone management, but not as written in Ballot Measure 2. The initiative process is not how complicated state policy should be developed. It was cobbled together in secret, with no hearings, no chance for discussion, no amendment, and no outside analysis. It is all or nothing.
In addition, Ballot Measure 2 is rife with constitutional and legal problems and does nothing to advance Alaska’s economy, or promote jobs or commerce. It is about allowing unelected officials, working with no requirement that they be proficient in natural resources or permitting, to set up roadblocks to progress. It is unlike anything seen in Alaska before. It even allows those bureaucrats to decide what your cabin, or dock or commercial project must look like and where you can build it on your property.
Even former Alaska Attorney General John Burns has concerns. He says Ballot Measure 2 has “numerous potential constitutional concerns” and “numerous irregularities involving draftsmanship, inconsistencies and ambiguities in the bill itself.” It will cause more lawsuits, to the extent that the former Attorney General described it as “the Full Attorney Employment Act”.
If voters do not reject the measure it will become the centerpiece for endless litigation, project delays, and loss of jobs.
Ballot Measure 2, which does nothing to improve Alaska, would put in place a huge roadblock to development. We don’t need additional roadblocks, especially when our community is just starting to experience a resurgence of development activity. Our future depends on wise and responsible resource development.
I urge Kenai Peninsula residents, and all Alaskans, to vote no on Ballot Measure 2.
Mike Chenault has served in the Alaska House of Representatives since 2001.