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September 24: Voice of The (Anchorage) Times on federal government and the states:

Posted: Monday, September 25, 2000

These gorgeous autumn days, in which Mount McKinley in all its majesty can be seen in stunning splendor from as far away as Anchorage, are a reminder that the feds still don't understand that Alaska is not Kansas -- or Georgia or Maryland or any other state you'd care to mention.

Sen. Ted Stevens once again is trying to get that through the heads on those who live and work in Washington, D.C.

It's a never-ending battle. Washington officials largely have never understood that what applies in temperate American doesn't fit the mold of Arctic and sub-Arctic Alaska. Yet various administrative departments keep trying to force one-size-fits-all rules on Alaska.

Stevens' latest attempt to get the message through comes in an effort to tell Washington that air quality readings up here occasionally surpass federally mandated carbon monoxide levels because of the climate, not because of some kind of ill intent.

Anchorage went through this with the Environmental Protection Agency a few years ago and now it's Fairbanks' turn.

The EPA last April gave Fairbanks -- get the dictatorial tone of all of this -- an 18-month deadline to come up with an acceptable plan to reduce carbon monoxide levels, or else. The penalties, no doubt, would include the loss of all kinds of federal matching funds, road dollars, and every other kind of goodie that Uncle Sam hands out, providing the folks in the hinterland do things his way.

Stevens thinks the EPA order is hogwash -- and he wants the National Academy of Science to do studies to find out whether he's correct. You can bet your bottom dollar that he is.

It's his conclusion, absent the study, that federal air quality standards are exceeded because of natural conditions, caused by air conversions during the extreme cold of Fairbanks' winters.

To find out for sure, however, Stevens has added language to a bill that has passed his Senate Appropriations Committee that would direct that the study be conducted.

The measure still must pass the full Senate and the House, and then somehow survive Bill Clinton's all-too-active veto pen.

But the battle is worth fighting. Alaska really is different, if Washington wants to admit it.



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