JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska lawmaker has introduced legislation that would make it a felony to interfere with permitted oil and gas, timber or other development projects.
Rep. Eric Feige is calling HB92 the "Lucy Lawless bill," after the actress who last year boarded a Shell drill ship before it left New Zealand for the U.S. West Coast. She and other Greenpeace activists were arrested. Lawless, from New Zealand, is best known for her TV series, "Xena: Warrior Princess."
Feige, a co-chair of the House Resources Committee, said in an interview Thursday that Alaska has a good permitting process, through which the public can raise any concerns or complaints. He said in the last few years, there has seemed to be an increasing tendency from within the activist environmental movement to not just write letters to the editor, attend meetings or otherwise engage in the process. "They seem to want to take the law into their own hands," he said.
"What kind of a society are we devolving into when people think they can just do this stuff indiscriminately without any real penalty?" he asked.
Feige, R-Chickaloon, said the bill, introduced Wednesday is an effort "to get out ahead of some of the big projects that we hope to have down the road. These are projects that will contribute great things to the Alaska economy, and these are projects that, like any project, are vulnerable to criminal mischief."
There are a number of controversial projects in Alaska, involving mining, coal and offshore drilling. Shell, for example, has begun exploratory drilling in the Arctic waters off the Alaska coast. The proposed Pebble Mine, a massive copper and gold prospect near the headwaters of one of the world's premier salmon fisheries, has been the subject of a heated PR battle for years — and the group behind the project hasn't even moved into permitting yet.
The bill would make taking actions with the intent to interrupt or interfere with an industrial operation, authorized by a state permit, criminal mischief in the third degree. An industrial operation, as defined, would include a "construction, energy, or timber activity and oil, gas, or mineral exploration, development or production."
Phil Radford, executive director of Greenpeace, said in a statement that Greenpeace activists "are always proud to have their names associated with the work we do to save the planet from destruction. However, this misguided attempt to protect big industry from scrutiny is a misuse of taxpayer money.
"If the legislator was serious about protecting the state's future, he would listen to the coalition of First Nations groups and Alaskan citizens who oppose the catastrophic work of companies like Shell who clearly have no business in the Arctic," he said.
An email sent Thursday by The Associated Press to agency representing Lawless wasn't immediately answered.
For information on HB92: http://bit.ly/11kYzP3 .
Follow Becky Bohrer on Twitter at http://twitter.com/beckybohrerap .