Alaska Sues U.S. Agencies in an Attempt to Block ECA Regulations

It appears that one does not simply enforces ECA regulations in Alaska and walks away with it. Last Friday Alaska sued the Obama administration aiming to block EPA in extending the North American Emissions Control Area to Alaska. According to the submitted law suit as of 1st August 2012 vessels operating within 200 miles of the Southeast and Southcentral Alaska coastlines will be required to use fuel with a sulfur content that does not exceed 1,000 parts per million.

Low-sulfur fuel is more expensive, and more difficult to obtain, than the fuel currently used by many marine vessels travelling in the waters off the coast of Alaska. As a result the operational cost of the vessels will increase within the ECA and consequently this will lead to an increase in the prices of basic necessities for Alaska’s residents. According to the lawsuit 85-90% of all commodities entering Alaska, which includes groceries, fuel, and essential supplies to the U.S. military, come through the Port of Anchorage and the shipping costs for those goods was estimated to increase by 8%. Moreover Alaska’s tourism will suffer as well since the the operational cost of cruise ships will be affected as well. This would mean 585,000 fewer visitors to Alaska, which would result in $150 million less income for Alaska workers and $180 million less in direct spending by Alaska tourists.

The plaintiff (State of Alaska) claims that the extension of the ECA to Alaska was unlawful due to the fact that the two thirds of the U.S. Senate did not consent for the extension as required by the U.S. Constitution and therefore  the treaty cannot bind the U.S., and is not enforceable as domestic law. In other words the Secretary of State’s (Hillary Rodham Clinton) acceptance of the ECA as a treaty amendment to MARPOL, without the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate, was unconstitutional. Moreover the executive’s branch (EPA) acceptance of the treaty amendment without the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate, is also unconstitutional.

Although EPA received many comments, even from the Governor of Alaska, criticizing the extension of ECA to Alaska waters and arguing that there was no scientific basis for extending the ECA to Alaska, EPA responded that such comments were beyond the scope of its rulemaking because the extension of the ECA was separately required by a proposed amendment to Annex VI. EPA also claimed that the amendment would be binding on the U.S. and EPA.

Outlining the importance of this issue for Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty stated that “Alaska relies heavily on maritime traffic, both for goods shipped to and from the state, and for the cruise ship passengers who support thousands of Alaskan jobs. There are reasonable and equally effective alternatives for the secretary and the EPA to consider which would still protect the environment but dramatically reduce the severe impact these regulations will have on Alaskan jobs and families.”

Sources:   SAFETY4SEAAlaska v. Clinton, Alaska Dispatch

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