Five Bold Predictions for Alaska in 2023

Five Bold Predictions for Alaska in 2023

December 30, 2022

As 2022’s last weekend begins, thoughts turn to the upcoming new year, and headlines we might see hit papers, social media and newsfeeds in the next 365 days.  Here are five we predict will occur; let’s hope for the first two, and prepare to gripe and grumble if the last three actually happen.

First, the good: Willow, ConocoPhillips’ behemoth oilfield in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) will get its approval, wrapping up a completely unnecessary and politically-charged re-review of its permitting process.  However, the Department of Interior will take until June, instead of its announced February timeframe, setting the project timeline back an entire year.

More good news will come from Governor Mike Dunleavy, who will launch an aggressive attack on federal overreach.  Look for lawsuits against the feds, focused on asserting state’s rights when it comes to being able to support our statehood compact and safely and responsibly develop our natural resources for the maximum benefit of all Alaskans.  That leadership is why the clear majority of Alaskans re-elected our governor, and will be welcome news for all of us who advocate for the balance between environmental stewardship and job-creating extractive opportunities.

2023 will see Judge Sharon Gleason, Alaska’s Chief Justice for the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, render not one, but two project-halting decisions from her eco-driven seat on the bench. Both decisions will be in support of lawsuits brought by eco-groups (with mostly out-of-state funding) who oppose letting us develop our natural resources. These groups prefer to keep us as the lower 48’s national park rather than allow responsible development- the balanced approach favored by rational Alaskans who believe jobs and prosperity can coexist with nature. 

The Pebble Mine will see the EPA fulfill its threat of a pre-emptive veto of the project, setting up a fight for the project’s life through the U.S. courts.  The veto, which is based on politics rather than emotion, will be celebrated by environmental groups as the ‘death knell’ for the project.  Nothing could be further from the truth; there are plenty of paths forward for the trillion-dollar-valued mine in southwest Alaska, and with a clean Final Environmental Impact Statement in-hand, Pebble’s owners and the mine’s champions have solid footing for the legal fight ahead.

The last prediction?  Well, by July 4th weekend, unleaded gas will once again hit $5.50 a gallon in urban areas of our great state, with diesel over $6.00 a gallon.  We can lay blame on that budget- and lifestyle-alterning set of numbers – which will affect not only personal-use vehicles but mass-transit, shipping and service-focused transportation – directly on Joe Biden, his failed energy policies and the continued, misguided fight against Alaska’s energy community.

Here’s to the memories from 2022, and wishes for a happy new year ahead, Alaska!