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Climate pact stalls; discussion ongoing

Posted: Friday, January 22, 2010

The Kenai City Council chose not to sign the global climate change compact on Wednesday night but intends to further the discussion of climate change issues.

After seven weeks of discussion, the council still cannot bring itself to sign on to a compact that some council members feel contains an anti-resource development message that goes counter to the city's philosophy. Nor can the council bring itself to take the climate change compact entirely off the table. What the council has all but committed to is talking more about global climate change.

The council voted to remove the portion of the last paragraph of its climate compact resolution. The removed phrase called for Kenai to add its name as a signatory of the Alaska Coastal Communities Global Climate Change Compact.

The council then moved to postpone passage of the amended resolution until May 19. The postponement all but assures that the community dialogue over climate change, which was spurred by the discussion of the compact, will continue.

All council members except Mike Boyle voted not to sign the compact.

Since council member Bob Molloy introduced the original resolution calling for Kenai to sign the compact, the council has heard from the public at four separate occasions and amended the resolution to indicate Kenai continues to support the oil and gas industry.

Given the number of changes made to the resolution, which still includes simultaneous support for the compact as well as the Tri-Borough Commission's energy policy, some council members thought it would be best to throw out the resolution and start from scratch.

During public testimony Wednesday, council member Joe Moore asked several comment makers whether they would support a tabula rasa approach. Responses were mixed.

"It's bad, it's ugly, it's inconsistent. Any facilitator worth their salt would take this resolution and throw it away," Moore said.

But the body ultimately decided that it was important not to discard the work that has been done.

"I don't want to throw the whole thing out because all the testimony is on the record," vice mayor Hal Smalley said. "I think we could make something substantial out of all of this. We can create a much better document that's not the compact."

The postponed resolution recognizes the problem of ocean acidification and its potential impact on local fisheries, supports development of all renewable and non-renewable energy sources for policymakers and encourages Kenai to continue its own energy-saving initiatives.

The resolution also continues to recognize the benefits of networking with other coastal communities on climate change issues and supports using any proceeds from federal climate change legislation to fund initiatives in Alaska.

Molloy, who proposed the motion to postpone the resolution, said the council can use the extra time to continue to engage the public in a climate change discussion. Molloy offered a rough outline that included town hall meetings and other forums less formal than a council meeting to allow the dialogue to continue. That process, Molloy said, will give the city of Kenai a clearer idea of what action, if any, the council needs to take in regard to climate change.

"Through additional public process we can capture points of agreement that have emerged," Molloy said.

Moore said it was not appropriate to allocate so much of the city's time and resources to global climate change discussion and said he did not fear losing sight of the issue by voting down the resolution.

"I appreciate the ambition," Moore said in response to Molloy's plan, "but the city does have other business to discuss."

Council member Boyle said it is imperative to keep the resolution on the table so it can serve as a source of motivation.

"If we postpone this and we hang that on the wall, it signifies something that is very important to us as a community," Boyle said. "We need to use this as a reminder that we have a job to do."

During a spirited but non-contentious public comment session, members of the public laid out the points of the issue. Many who oppose the compact fear it is a backhanded endorsement for cap and trade legislation, which they say could have a negative impact on the local economy. Those in support of it discussed the need to be on the forefront of addressing global climate change.

Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite@peninsulaclarion.com.



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