Most Alaskans have come to recognize that the future prosperity of our state will depend on the responsible development of our resources. Those natural resources are oil, gas, minerals, fish, timber and tourism. Expanded government should not be included because it, by itself, does not generate wealth.
Alaska is unique. A huge piece of real estate one-fifth the size of the entire United States with a small population under 800,000. Little of what we produce is consumed within our state. Therefore, our resources must compete on the markets of the world. The capital investment to develop these resources are subject to a rule of thumb — investment capital goes to the development project that offers the highest monetary return with the least risk.
There is another obstacle to development — environmental group gaming of the permitting process to delay and increase the cost of projects. Can we permit any resource project on federal lands in a timely manner when virtually the entire environmental community is opposed to any Alaskan development? Evidence of that is the filing of actions on the projects listed below. It is not my intention to comment on the merits of the projects, but to inform Alaskans as to the scope of those opposed to any development in our state. They are using Alaska as a “poster child” to raise funds to support their causes.
All of the following resource development project in Alaska have had litigation filed in the U.S. District Court of Alaska: The Ambler Road case, which would allow mineral development in Northwestern Alaska where currently there is no access; the case for eliminating the Tongass from the Roadless Rule, which would allow roads construction to open up mineral, renewable energy projects and forestry development; the case against the road between King Cove and Cold Bay on the Izembek Isthmus; the case for the Constantine Mine, which would allow a promising mine development in the Haines area; case for the Big Thorne Timber Sale in Southeast Alaska; and litigation to permit the opening of a small area of the 1002 area of ANWR for leasing to oil and gas development.
The above listed development projects are in litigation filed by the following groups: The Audubon Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Earthworks, National Parks Conservation Association, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, Winter Wildlands Alliance, Organized Village of Kake, the Boat Company, Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, Tongass Conservation Society, Greenpeace, Wrangell Resource Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Cascadia Wildlands, Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Lynn Canal Conservation, Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, Wilderness Watch, and the Alaska Wilderness League. These are individually and collectively on record in the Alaska District Court opposing one or more of the listed projects. A very formidable opposition group.
I have not included pending litigation in opposition to the National Petroleum Reserve or the Pebble Mine.
The organizations I have listed are well-funded and have experienced attorneys with the know-how to delay the permitting process. The frustration caused by such delay and by litigation may cause the applicant to give up and pursue a similar project outside of Alaska. So, even though a project has merit and would benefit Alaska, permitting process delay and litigation prevent it from ever receiving an unbiased decision based on sound science.
I believe those groups that are blocking the development of our resources should be required to publicly disclose their funding sources. Only then can we judge the true intention motivating their actions and hold them accountable. We require political candidates to disclose their sources of contributions, why not mandate the same procedure for those opposing development in our State?
We have recently seen such disclosures on a recent mail out to Alaskans on the Vote No on Prop One. Supporting the vote are the Alaska State Chamber, Hilcorp, ConocoPhillips, Calista Corporation. Those opposed are largely from Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, including the Tidal Advocacy Fund, the League of Conservative Voters and the Sixteen Thirty Fund.
I suggest developing an Alaska Response Team bringing together the Resource Development Council, the Alliance, Commonwealth North, the Alaska Chamber and the University of Alaska. A Governor’s Response Team could be similar to what the Province of Alberta has established and should receive consideration.
Alaska’s response to these groups must be one of unity and credibility. We must come together to support responsible development. The future of our state is at risk without the development of our resources. We must respond with our Alaska residents and our academic expertise. We have the best fishery management anywhere. Our oil and gas technology is second to none. We have world class timber and mining technology. Alaska is America’s number one destination for tourism.
Our stewardship of the environment is the envy of the world. It is time that Alaskans respond hand in hand against our critics using the credibility of Alaskan voices who live and work here against those who only get their vision of Alaska in a magazine.
Frank Murkowski is a former U.S. senator and former governor of the State of Alaska.