September 8: Voice of The (Anchorage) Times on Knowles v. EPA

Posted: Monday, September 11, 2000

Gov. Tony Knowles is becoming -- you'll forgive the expression -- a real hell-raiser.

Just a week or so after telling former President Jimmy Carter that he doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to oil and gas exploration on the North Slope, Knowles tore into the Environmental Protection Agency for its bullheadedness regarding a generation facility at the Red Dog mine in northwest Alaska. Good for Tony.

His latest blast at Outside interference in the business of living and working in Alaska came yesterday as he announced the state is suing to block a senseless and costly EPA mandate that thumbs its nose at steps the state already had taken in the Red Dog case.

The deal is this:

The state Department of Environmental Conservation granted Cominco, the operator of the mine, a permit to spend $2.5 million to install air pollution control technology on a new generator and to retrofit six other generators. These controls would meet all state and federal emission standards while at the same time allowing the mine to increase its power generating capabilities.

Enter, then, the meddling feds. The EPA, sitting back in Washington, D.C., literally thousands of miles from Red Dog and figuratively a million miles away, overruled the state.

Red Dog must install, the EPA whiz kids said, much more costly emission control equipment -- a move Knowles says would add $1.5 million a year to the mine's operating costs and $10 million more in construction costs over what the state already had approved.

Not only that, Knowles said at a press conference at the Port of Anchorage, the EPA-mandated froofaws involve use of technology that is unproved in Arctic temperatures and which could result in more emissions, not less, than that proposed by the state.

For nearly a year, the governor said, the state has been attempting to negotiate with the EPA to resolve the dispute -- and has been stonewalled at every turn.

In a sizzling letter to Carol Browner, EPA administrator, Knowles said the government's action places at stake ''the livelihoods of Alaskans, the unmatched environmental quality Alaskans cherish, and the autonomy of an approved state permit program.'' Furthermore, he said, the decisions of ''inflexible bureaucrats'' in distant Washington violate Browner's own assurances to him and to Sen. Ted Stevens that the dispute could be resolved.

What's really at issue here is something much more basic than a dispute over emission controls on a generator at a mine site.

This is yet one more ugly example that all too many federal officials do not regard Alaska as a state and who feel its statehood rights are without substance.

The governor was right in lashing out.

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