Looming ocean policy: How will it impact Alaska?
By Marleanna Hall
The National Ocean Council recently accepted comments on the Draft Implementation Plan of the National Ocean Policy, a policy that will likely add another layer of bureaucracy with no added benefit to the environment.
The National Ocean Policy will likely negatively impact the nation’s economy, adding more regulations to industries including fishing, transportation, oil and gas development, and tourism, causing harm to the livelihood of millions of Americans.
Alaskans, with 34,000 miles of coastline, 3,000 rivers, and over three million lakes, have a significant stake in National Ocean Policy, and will be impacted more than other states by the Policy. Coastal and rural Alaskan communities may become financially devastated by National Ocean Policy enforcement.
In a March 2 letter, Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell, wrote “Alaska is committed to protecting the health and productivity of its coastal and marine resources.” She noted that any major proposed policy change related to the oceans has the State’s full attention.
The Draft Plan includes 53 actions and almost 300 benchmarks, of which more than half are supposed to be completed by the end of 2013. The Draft Plan calls for the federal government to make a “land grab” of millions of acres, both on and offshore, as well as apply regulations to both land and water based activities.
It is a policy of RDC to support efforts to reduce federal interference and devolve more authority to the states. The National Ocean Policy does not do that.
Alaska’s resources are vital to its economy. Alaska, and the U.S., can benefit from largely untapped resources such as the estimated 27 billion barrels of oil and the 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Outer Continental Shelf. RDC recently advocated that development of these resources must not be further restricted or further hindered by unnecessary bureaucratic delay.
As currently proposed, National Ocean Policy will further limit domestic energy development and harm the nation’s economy, business and industry leaders warn. They maintain that access to resources must be allowed, and uncertainty and unnecessary regulations that offer no added benefit to the environment avoided.
Responsible development of these resources creates jobs in rural Alaska communities. Local economies could be at risk if overly burdensome regulations are added to existing and new projects.
In part, Alaska was granted statehood due to its vast natural resources, with Congress expecting the new 49th state to utilize its natural resources to build and sustain its economy.
RDC Executive Director, Rick Rogers, testified April 2 to the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Fisheries, Oceans, Wildlife and Insular Affairs in Anchorage addressing “Alaska’s Sovereignty In Peril: The National Ocean Policy’s Goal To Federalize Alaska.” Congressman Don Young hosted the Alaska meeting, and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski was also present.
RDC Executive Director Rick Rogers and board member Stephanie Madsen,
along with Doug Vincent-Lang of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game
testify at a congressional field hearing in Anchorage.
In Young’s opening remarks, he said, “the reach of this ocean policy will stretch throughout almost the entire state and affect almost all activity that requires a federal permit. Any new federal initiative that affects our ability to use these natural resources will cost jobs.”
Murkowski warned, “one size fits all standards rarely work for Alaska.” The Senator added, “we recognize that this is another attempt by the executive branch to tell us how we can and how we cannot use our oceans and our coasts.”
In his testimony, Rogers explained, “the National Ocean Policy adds yet another hurdle to overcome, and may serve to provide an additional platform for third party eNGOs to litigate against projects that appear to lack the informational requirements or expectations for the National Ocean Policy.”
Rogers noted, “RDC shares the concerns expressed by Alaska Governor Sean Parnell and the six other Governors in the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition in their letter to President Obama dated March 13. In that correspondence, the Governors raise concerns of unintended consequences for all types of energy development. The same unintended consequences are likely to also affect fisheries, forestry, mineral development, and tourism activities.”
Any new action by the National Ocean Council should not further hinder Alaska’s ability to responsibly develop its resources, creating jobs and a healthy economy, RDC cautioned.
In a March 28 letter to the National Ocean Council, RDC questioned how the policy could proceed without Congressional authorization. Noting that implementation of the Plan will likely cost a considerable amount of federal dollars and that it adds another level of bureaucracy to already highly regulated and protected oceans and surrounding areas.
RDC once again recommended efforts focus on reducing unnecessary measures and improve existing programs and policy.
The Draft Plan called for improvement of Arctic development response, coordination of science and data, and new studies. The National Ocean Council must ensure the new studies and efforts do not unnecessarily delay or curtail activities, effectively making those activities non-viable.
Before further proceeding, the National Ocean Council must fully consider the potential economic impacts that the National Ocean Policy may have on industries across the nation, including fishing, oil and gas, energy, mining, transportation, tourism and more, RDC noted. To view RDC’s comments, visit akrdc.org.
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