Addressing a crowd at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Alaska Rep. Don Young said he will pursue a change in federal law in an effort to help Agrium's North Kenai plant stay open.
Young said he will try to "tweak" the Jones Act to allow the fertilizer plant to make marine cargo deliveries to the West Coast of the United States.
He said he wants to change the act to specifically allow the fleet of ships in Nikiski delivering Agrium products to deliver to the West Coast. The ships would still be manned by American crews, he said.
The Jones Act is a federal statute requiring vessels used to transport cargo between United States ports be owned by U.S. citizens, built in U.S. shipyards and manned by U.S. citizen crews.
"The best thing is to work to keep that plant open," Young said.
The ships Agrium uses to deliver its products are not U.S. flagships, preventing it from delivering its product to U.S. markets, said Agrium spokes-person Lisa Parker.
Currently, the plant sells its product specifically to Mexico and South Korea, she said.
The public policy reason for the Jones Act was to protect American shipbuilding capacity and the ability to construct war ships, said Mark Manning, an Anchorage lawyer with experience in marine law. He added that it also was to preserve American jobs.
Parker had no comment on Agrium's response to changes in the act. She said the company would be discussing the issue with Young and his staff.
However, prices for fertilizer currently are higher in the Pacific Northwest than they are in the Black Sea, Parker said.
In other news, Young said a transportation bill he introduced passed in the House and is now going to the Senate. HR-3, called the Transportation Equity Act-Legacy for Users, guarantees $283.9 billion in federal funding for federal highways, transit programs, highway safety and motor carrier safety programs.
"This nation has serious traffic problems this state has serious traffic problems," Young said.
Young is chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
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