Not so very long ago, a group of committed Alaskans banded together to pass a ballot measure to protect fish from pollution.
These Alaskans were heavily out-funded by outside corporations. The corporate opposition cried and wailed that this ballot proposition was poorly written, would kill jobs, was bad for Alaska, and would shut down businesses far and wide. Sound familiar?
No, I am not talking about the Yes for Salmon ballot measure, or even the initiative to reinstate the Alaska Coastal Zone Management program – A grassroots Alaskan policy which the global oil industry spent heavily to kill – I am talking about the Cruise Ship Wastewater Mixing Zone and Head Tax initiative, a measure that, among other things, would prohibit cruise ships from dumping pollution into Alaska waters.
In August of 2006 Alaskans voted in favor of this ballot proposition. Despite the hysterics and massive spending by the global cruise industry, with the passage of the law, the world did not stop turning, businesses did not close, and life went on in Alaska. The cruise industry, required by Alaska Statute to treat their water pollution, did what the law said and started to investigate new technologies that would allow them to treat their pollution instead of dumping it into Alaskan waters.
In 2013, the global cruise ship industry found a staunch ally in the corporate governor, Sean Parnell. Parnell dispatched the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner, Larry Hartig, to make the hit. Hartig (with a lengthy resume as a corporate defender) successfully lobbied the Alaska Legislature to pass legislation to kill the citizens’ initiative. Under Hartig’s lobbying, the Legislature took that hard-fought law passed by Alaska citizens, stripped it off the books, and plopped it down into the old thunder mug.
And the story continues! After vanquishing Parnell in 2014 – with the help of these same citizens who passed the citizens’ initiative, Governor Walker chose to slap these citizens in the face by appointing de facto corporate lobbyist Larry Hartig to continue his reign as the Commissioner of DEC.
Under the Walker/Hartig administration, Alaskans who fight for healthy air, and clean water have been rewarded with zero/nada/nothing/none and no policy efforts to stop or slow the pollution of Alaska air and water. In fact, we are rewarded with the opposite. Commissioner Hartig has actively delayed or stalled efforts to protect Alaskans from Transboundary Mine pollution, and the harmful impacts of climate change. The administration has killed efforts to enshrine protections for special waters, and has issued minimal citations to the cruise industry DEC is supposed to regulate.
Governor Walker and his commissioner of DEC continue to apologize for, and defend the Global Cruise Ship industry, as the industry continues to freely dump polluted water into Alaska seas, and foul the air in Alaska’s ports with their exhaust.
To add insult to injury, in local Alaskan newspapers, Walker’s commissioner writes about the effectiveness of their toothless “cruise ship monitoring program” while Alaska fishermen report toxic, frothy and acidic sheens and unknown residues in the cruise ship lanes, and the local air quality in ports is marred with crude and smudgy billows of diesel smoke.
If there is a moral to this story, it is that you should NOT sleep tight: Global corporate interests hold enormous power in this state. Governor Walker and his Commissioner are not adequately protecting your water, your fish or your very air against the actions of these global players and polluters.
In fact, Walker’s commissioner worked hard to destroy the legal weapons that Alaskans forged to defend themselves against pollution. In fact, Walker chose to hire him thereby assuming responsibility for Hartig’s unflagging defense of global corporations’ right to pollute our water.
If you are someone who values fishing for fish in water that is not full of cruise ship effluent – you better take another look at your options and vote your values this time.
Government Affairs Director
Paid for and approved by The Alaska Center, 921 W 6th Avenue, Suite 200, Anchorage, Alaska 99501. Susan Klein, Chair. The top contributors to The Alaska Center (Anchorage, AK) are Tide Advocacy Fund (San Francisco, CA), League of Conservation Voters (Washington, DC), and Sixteen Thirty Fund (Washington, DC). This notice to voters is required by Alaska law: We certify that this literature is not authorized, paid for, or approved by the candidate.
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