Alaska House rejects special session on coastal management

Speaker Mike Chenault said Monday that he polled the state House and there's not enough support for a special session to keep the coastal zone management program alive for another year.

Chenault said he is willing to talk it over with Senate leaders a final time on Tuesday to try to salvage the program before it's due to expire at midnight on June 30.

"We're trying to set up a meeting with Senate leadership and talk about it one more time and see if we can't come to some type of agreement," Chenault said in an interview. "I feel that if we don't come up with something by (Tuesday) then it's pretty much over with because we still would need a few days ... to get members rounded up and get them to a place to be able to vote on it."

The latest Senate offer called for the program to continue in its current form for up to a year. Senate President Gary Stevens said that would give lawmakers more time to try to find a compromise about what it should look like over the long term.

Chenault disagreed with that approach, saying a one-year extension would mean just starting the contentious negotiations over the issue all over again.

Supporters of the program say it's needed to influence federal development decisions and provide local input. They say losing it could have consequences like preventing federal approval of a potential Arctic deepwater drilling port, and that the state would also lose federal grant funds. The Legislature failed to come up with a compromise on the issue during the regular 90-day session and in the special session that followed.

The House voted down a proposed deal in part because of concerns about how much emphasis "local knowledge" would be given in an advisory board to review coastal issues. The role of the board has been a hugely contentious issue in the Legislature, with Arctic coastal communities wanting a greater voice on offshore oil development in their areas and the oil and gas and mining industries wary of it being a hurdle for projects.

Senate President Gary Stevens said there was enough support in the Senate for a special session to pass a one-year extension of the program.

But it requires two-thirds of all legislators to agree for a special session to happen. Chenault said only 19 of the 40 House members that he polled over the weekend supported having a special session on a one-year program extension.

He said 15 of the 20 Senate members supported the special session, so 25 House members were needed to reach the two-thirds threshold.

Reach Sean Cockerham at or 257-4344.

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