By Mike O’Meara
Some liken increasing oil and gas activity on the Kenai Peninsula and in Cook Inlet to a Renaissance. A new Dark Ages may be more apt. The fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476 ushered in Europe’s Middle Ages, the early centuries of which were characterized in many places by complete breakdown of law and civility. Competing armies of marauding invaders swept the countryside seeking plunder, demolishing communities, and ravaging the local people.
There was no authority to intervene.
Like modern-day marauders, foreign corporations Buccaneer and Escopeta have invaded us in search of plunder too, spurred on by Alaska’s so-called Stampede Act, with its promise of $20 to $25 million in tax credits for drilling Cook Inlet. In their rush, they violated our laws — the Jones Act, Clean Water Act, Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Plan. Their uncleaned drill rigs risked contaminating our waters with dangerous invasive marine species and pathogens. Wielding subsurface estate leases like weapons, these invaders threaten and terrorize surface owners with loss of everything they hold dear. News media and government regulators, long kept at a distance, are manipulated and pacified by out-of-state spin doctors and attorneys.
There seems no authority to intervene.
The Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area management plan prohibits drill rig storage. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game fudged for Escopeta, claiming that with legs up, a rig really isn’t a rig. Now Buccaneer’s “Endeavor” sits with legs jacked down in contempt of our critical habitat. In the face of this clear violation, Fish and Game is silent.
Kachemak Bay oil leases were sold in 1973 absent adequate public notice and environmental review. After four years of opposition from commercial fishermen and other concerned citizens, Governor Jay Hammond righted that wrong, announcing the 1977 agreement with oil companies to buy back those leases. He said, “I was convinced that the leases should not have been issued in this particular area which is so rich in marine resources. There are many places where oil exploration can proceed without controversy. But this is one area in which our renewable resources should receive the most stringent protection.”
Fish and Game should honor Hammond’s insight and enforce the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area management plan. We can be sure that if some local mariner or personal use fisherman violated it the agency would do so. It should be no different for Buccaneer or other corporations. When laws and regulations are selectively enforced there is no law. Brute strength, wealth and influence rule the day and obliterate justice.
Consider attending the panel discussion and film on oil and gas in Kachemak Bay and Cook inlet at 7 p.m. on Oct. 18, at the Islands and Ocean Center.
Mike O’Meara is a longtime Homer resident and advocate for a number of issues.
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