According to the print edition headline of the Jan. 14, 2011 FDNM, Proposition A: the Home Heating Protection Act
is a “referendum
Prop A describes itself as an “Ordinance as Submitted by Citizens
.” Initiative and referendum are defined as different forms of ballot propositions by the Alaska Constitution.
The Constitution of the State of Alaska Article 11.1 defines both initiatives and referendum: “The people may propose and enact laws by the initiative, and approve or reject acts of the legislature by the referendum.” Thus, an initiative can only enact new law, or in this case Borough code. A referendum can only approve or repeal law. While the FDNM may find these terms interchangeable, our constitution does not.
Even so, Prop A as written applies only to the “use” of home heating devices: “The borough shall not ban, prohibit, or fine residents for the use of home heating devices.” A very different initiative was not considered by voters; let’s call it Prop X: The borough shall not ban, prohibit, or fine residents for the use or misuse of home heating devices.
“Use” in Prop A cannot be misconstrued to mean the same as “misuse” in Prop X. There can be little question the Assembly has clear authority to enforce air pollution control with penalties regarding the “misuse” of heating appliances.
Prop A merely went into local code, effective Oct. 12, 2010, the date the election was certified. As written, Prop A causes far less harm than the gutted Air Quality Ordinance proposed by the Mayor and the Air Pollution Control Commission, 2011-03, draft version 1/13/2011
What’s really scary is that no one who has supported the gutted ordinance believes it will bring down our PM 2.5 enough to meet attainment. Residents must show up to urge the Assembly to take effective action to improve our air and defend our economy.
Costs of ineffective action include the loss of Federal highway dollars and all those jobs, 2-1 offsets required of all new or modified point source air permits, and jeopardizing Eielson Air Force Base through the BRAC process (fast approaching in 2013). The consequences of gutting current ordinance or failing to strengthen it adequately are grave for public health and the economic future of our community. It is a mistake to assume the State will step in with an unprecedented level of engagement and take care of our nonattainment problem. Even if the State does step up, our air troubles have grown too big for the state to solve without our help. Bottom line, the proposed ordinance is an unnecessary and harmful abdication of local control.