CHECKS AND BALANCES: The Alaska Pipeline Case by Jethro K. Lieberman

CHECKS AND BALANCES: The Alaska Pipeline Case

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Lieberman considers the Alaska Pipeline case as an illustration of the checks and balances at work in our democratic government. Thus we begin with a few words on the checks on majority rule (to protect the interests of minorities or ""different majorities"") and a breakdown of the ""separation of powers""--three branches, two houses, different courts, and ""private power""--interpreted here as the voting and protest rights of private citizens. Then, after some background on Alaskan land rights, we get into the role played by the different branches in the Native Claims Settlement, right-of-way disputes, environmental impact statements, and so on. The action of committees, sub-committees, and joint committees is duly traced, as is the ongoing interaction with other government bodies; and Lieberman follows through the courts (including the Supreme Court) the further question of who should pay the public interest lawyers who represented environmental groups in the case. Whether the Native Claims Settlement was just, whether the natives were satisfied, what the pipeline's environmental impact will be, to what extent it will change the Alaskan terrain or interfere with wild life or native land use, whettter the pipeline's route and/or destination is rational or optimal, or how desperately we need the oil--none of these questions is considered by Lieberman, who is concerned only with official procedures. Unofficial procedures, such as lobbying, are ignored, as is the influence of private interests on the decisions of our democratically elected representatives. This makes for dry reading and a limited picture, though it does get across how complicated the procedures are and does expand in several directions on those schematic textbook diagrams of how a bill becomes a law. The complete text of the final Alaska Pipeline Act (Public Law 93-153) is appended.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1982
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard