Alaska’s Future Requires We Expand Responsible Development

Alaska’s Future Requires We Expand Responsible Development

April 6, 2020

Before the COVID-19 ever hit America’s shores, Alaska had the unwelcomed distinction of the highest unemployment in the nation.  We faced a $1.5 billion state budget deficit.  We were facing an ill-designed ballot measure that could triple the tax rate on already-declining North Slope fields.

Then COVID-19 hit America.  Our ‘new normal’ consists of thousands of Alaska businesses shut by government order.  Of “hunker in place” orders banning us from traveling outside of our local boundaries.  Of regulations and restrictions that have already caused businesses large and small to cease operating.

As many Americans try to figure out how to stay solvent, even those who continue to work are faced with stress levels unseen this century.  Medical professionals, first responders, supply-chain and transportation workers all have seen their jobs’ importance elevated in the public eye.  Energy workers, too, have the importance of their jobs increased, as Alaskans stay at home.  After all, how do you Zoom and distance learn without reliable electricity, heat and connectivity?

Within months, Americans will have a chance to be relieved of ‘social distancing’, and many jobs that were furloughed will be back.  Some won’t, and those workers – from retail, service, energy and entrepreneurship – will need employment.

Now is the time for the federal, state and local governments to aggressively push forward with environmental studies, permitting and finance planning for resource development projects across Alaska.  Whether it is mining opportunities from Pebble, the Ambler Mining District, Graphite One or Constantine, renewed Tongass logging, Cassandra, NPR-A or ANWR oil and gas development, or the Susitna dam, the jobs associated with those projects could jump-start a new era of responsible development employment.

Yes, some of those projects are controversial.  Some would need to be litigated to overcome earlier decisions made by judges with an anti-development bent.  But Alaska will need jobs, revenues and opportunities taken from it by a combination of COVID-19 and over-active geopolitics.

Alaska’s people are worth it.  Alaska’s future depends on it.