Dear Friends and Neighbors:
I could spend this newsletter taking a poll on when the official start of summer will be. I could be wrong, but I remember it starting earlier than late July in past years. I'll have to check my journal. Actually, I'm looking out the window and think it might be starting now! Good. OK, next subject.
Want More Pesticides With Your Coffee? For Your Children, and Our Fish, Game and Wildlife?
Last week we received a number of e-mails about a pending Parnell Administration regulation (from the Department of Environmental Conservation) to stifle the public from commenting on pesticide use. It's their version of the old "Trust us, we're from the government" saw. Well, sometimes the public knows better, especially about pesticide use that can affect a private property owner's water supply, our fishing streams, or areas where children hike or play. Specifically, the regulation would ban public comment for ground (but not aerial) spraying, for spraying large amounts of pesticides along a stream bank that would leach into the stream (comment is allowed if the pesticides are technically sprayed directly on a river or lake), and spraying in areas our beneficent government doesn't know children use. You know, the 99% of children who grab things while they hike, or put them in their mouths because, well, that’s fun for kids? I think there are smarter ways to streamline emergency pesticide use, and fight things like invasive plat species, without stifling the public when it comes to protecting our fish, wildlife, game, and children.
Finally - contrary to the suggestion of the regulators who want to curb public input - the Department already has the power to waive notice and comment regulations when there is an "emergency" - including the "environmental" emergencies involving the spread of non-native invasive plant species. We hope they'd use that power judiciously. But eliminating public input isn't the best way to run a responsible toxic pesticide program.
You have until 5:00 pm August 2, 2012 to file your public comments on this regulation. We have asked that DEC extend public comment since many people affected by this rule are out vacationing, commercial fishing, or otherwise enjoying the summer away from the computers and pens they use to write their public comments. You can send your written comments to Rebecca Colvin, Solid Waste and Pesticide Program, Division of Environmental Health, Department of Environmental Conservation, 555 Cordova St., Anchorage, AK 99501, by facsimile at (907) 269-7600, or by e-mail at Rebecca.email@example.com.
Gasoline Price Gouging
A letter to the editor this morning blamed all legislators for not enacting a price gouging law. Well, there are certain people to take your anger out on. But not Pete Petersen, Bill Wielechowski, or the eight or so sponsors who have tried to pass a law stopping refiners from gouging the public on gas prices. I don't want to sound partisan - but the reality is that the sponsors are all Democrats, and the House Republican leadership has blocked Rep. Petersen's bill for four years. Maybe six. I've lost count. The sponsors of the House and Senate price gouging bills are Reps. Petersen, Tuck, Kawasaki, Miller and me, and Sens. Wielechowski, Ellis and French.
Here are the facts. Alaska has the highest gasoline prices in the nation before state gasoline taxes, which are high in some states. Even after state gasoline taxes are added Hawaii and Alaska trade places back and forth as the most expensive gasoline state in the nation. Starting about five years ago Alaska's refiners started charging a much higher markup - about 100% more than their historical average - on the crude oil they process before selling gasoline to our local dealers. Why? Well, it looks to many like they are charging just a tad less than it would cost us to ship fuel up from Washington. They sort of have us over a barrel, with limited competition in the refinery market in Alaska.
Want evidence that they are overcharging? Well, Washington state imports Alaska crude oil. They refine it there. They charge 50 cents a gallon less than we pay on the road system for gasoline our refiners produce from our own Alaska oil (and dollars less than our friends in rural Alaska pay). And in Texas, where Texas crude oil costs roughly the same as Alaska crude in most months, gas sells for $1.00 less a gallon. In many states that produce no oil, gas is also far cheaper.
There are two solutions. One, which I've co-sponsored, is to treat gasoline refineries like other utilities, and regulate them so they are allowed a fair profit - but not an excessive profit. If their claims are correct - that they are not raking in profits - then the law would not reduce the price they can charge.
The other is to build large gasoline storage facilities. We could ship up bulk gasoline at a lower price than our refiners are selling for. The only danger there is that if we did that, the refiners would temporarily reduce their prices to drive that venture out of business. That's why I like the former better. But smart minds could likely make the latter work too.
Another Sad Loss; And Honoring a Pioneer
Last week we lost a great Alaska pioneer and veteran, Vince Doran. Vince, who lived into his nineties, was a friend of mine - who I'd see at the Pioneer Home in Anchorage. He worked well into his 80s at Steelfab, a local Anchorage company where he specialized in rural waste treatment and water quality projects. I'll miss my breakfasts and conversations with Vince. My regards to his family and co-workers at Steelfab.
And as you may recall, this winter we lost Frank Reed at 99 years old. Frank grew up in the Old Anchorage Hotel, where he lived with his parents and luminaries like his friend Sydney Laurence. He helped build Anchorage's first major electricity project; was a stalwart in the business and non-profit world; and helped write the Municipality of Anchorage's city charter. He was preceded in death by his wife Maxine a few years ago - and his son Frank, Jr. He was one of the most polite men you've ever met. And funny. And committed to his community.
A while back we asked the Mayor's Office to give a secondary unofficial name to the street in front of the hotel - we suggested "Frank Reed Way". That or a similar honor would be fitting and we hope the city follows through. We recently contacted them again this week. Frank was Republican with friends of all backgrounds and politics. He joked about how in the world he and I became friends but in truth had Republican, Independent and Democratic friends and valued people instead of judging their politics. I can't imagine there would be any reason not to honor him.
There will be an e-news blackout 30 days before the August Primary election and the November election - per the request of our ethics advisor. I'll try to get in a few around those dates.
That’s it for now. As always, let me know if I can help.