Greenpeace of all groups should know environmental law

Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2004

Ah, yes. It's always different when someone else seems to break the law. A former police chief's biggest gripe about Ketchikan was that so-called law-abiding citizens choose which laws are worth obeying.

So it is with Greenpeace.

The group got into the realm of criminal violations while in Ketchikan when it allegedly didn't file the necessary paperwork to stay within Alaska environmental law and then allegedly didn't stick around to straighten it out.

When an international environmental organization puts itself in the position of possibly violating a state's environmental law, there is one suitable reaction: A slap to one's own forehead, a "Doh!" and an apology.

Sure, we would have made fun of Greenpeace over it too good an opportunity not to but we would have had to concede that frail humans make mistakes sometimes.

That's not how it seems to have worked out.

Rather than just sucking it up, Greenpeace first blamed its ship's agent (tacky) and then the Department of Environmental Conservation for holding it to a "higher standard" (untrue).

It's not a higher standard; it's the law.

It is true that none of the others so cited have faced criminal actions.

Greenpeace would like us to end that story there, but there is a pertinent follow up: None of the others hauled anchor and hightailed it out of town before getting the matter settled.

That's where the allegation against Greenpeace differs.

As a result, the group faces criminal charges in connection with allegedly not filing an oil-discharge prevention plan at least five days before entering Alaska waters, and not having a certificate proving financial responsibility to clean up a spill.

Greenpeace has pleaded innocent to the charges.

But before being arraigned earlier this month, an official with the organization disdained Alaska ("nothing really surprises us with the state of Alaska") and suggested that it would have been better to give the organization that touts environmental responsibility a pass on environmental laws.

"I think DEC would better serve the state of Alaska going after oil companies rather than Greenpeace," Melanie Duchins of Greenpeace in Anchorage told the Juneau Empire. "We certainly didn't risk the environment."

Hmmm. We're trying to imagine what Greenpeace would say if it were a cruise ship that hadn't filed the paperwork and hotfooted it out of town before straightening it out with the DEC. Doesn't require a very active imagination, does it?

The Ketchikan Daily News

Aug. 11

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