…for our Alaska readers and friends of the State
|We believe that the event on Monday and Tuesday will foretell the future of Alaska.
The Commentary below says why. We urge all faithful Alaskans to take leave from their jobs and vacations to participate. The commitment of our NGP readers alone could protect Alaska from the relentless overreach of our federal government and preserve the Statehood compact for future generations.
Representative Charisse Millett (NGP Photo) is one of a hand full of Alaska Legislators who — like Governor Sean Parnell — defends Alaska against federal overreach at every opportunity. Most recently, Governor Parnell offered to assist the Federal government in assessing the oil and gas potential of the small sliver of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) that Congress designated for oil and gas exploration and production.
The Obama Administration declined the offer, still intent in blocking Congressional intent that the small sliver (i.e. called the 1002 area) be explored. Millet wrote a follow-up letter to the new Secretary of the Interior, urging reconsideration. Out of respect for Representative Millett’s initiative and with hope that more and more Legislators will become engaged in defending Alaska against an overreaching federal government, we reprint that letter below.
Next Monday and Tuesday, July 12 and 13, 2013, Alaska will have convened a Federal Overreach Summit. The purpose of this commentary is to help our Alaskan readers arm themselves with background over the weekend.
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While America’s creation rested on patriots who seceded from their colonial landlord; Alaska’s statehood was conceived and executed by colonists who wished to join and become a full and equal state of their national landlord.
In both cases, their noble accomplishments required a series of actions planned and executed by patriots.
In Alaska’s case, that key series of actions is often referred to as culminating in the ‘Statehood Compact’. (For a wonderful documentary about the fight for statehood and now the threat to Alaska’s economic survival, please see the video below and this three-part video, “Alaska Under Siege”, https://northerngaspipelines.com/content/11-13-12-alaska-under-siege.)
While more of a student of history than a historian, I find the struggle for statehood inspiring and the responsibility for protecting it, sobering. Our 1959-era forebears achieved statehood after over a dozen attempts over the course of 50 years.
Statehood opponents successfully lobbied Congress and presidents against Alaska statehood, clear up to its approval in 1959. Those opponents had one argument. “Alaskans don’t have the means to make a living in that Arctic state.”
In 1955, Alaskans convened a ‘Constitutional Convention’, creating what many believed to be a “model constitution” under the leadership of Bill Egan (Note: Years later when I was writing a speech for him, the Governor said, “Beware of the vulturistic federal government”.)
Then Richfield Oil Company’s (i.e. now, ConocoPhillips’) Bill Bishop, discovered the Swanson River Oil Field in 1957. Armed with oil, timber, fishing and mining potential, Alaska statehood advocates now had a stronger argument.
In 1958 a new statehood bill gave Alaska about 104 million acres of the Territory along with mineral rights. Alaska was to receive more land than any other state — in addition to 90% of mineral revenues from federal land – to assure its government and people could make a living. Congress passed it. Alaskan voters supported the Statehood bill as they had their model constitution and the president signed the Alaska Statehood Proclamation on January 3, 1959. That array of actions by the Federal Government, the Territorial Government and Alaska’s Voters to adopt a Constitution and an Alaska Statehood Act — complete with Federal promises to Alaskans — is what most of us refer to as the Alaska Statehood Compact (Note: some lawyers argue that only parts of the Statehood Act itself could be called a “compact” between the federal government and the people of the state.)
A delegate to the constitutional convention, former Lt. Governor Jack Coghill, later said that the statehood bill was more than a bill; it was a ‘contract’.
One of Alaska’s greatest statehood advocates was future governor Walter J. Hickel (NGP Photo). When asked by Congressmen how much of the territory should be deeded over to the new state, to make it viable, Hickel remembered blurting out, “104 million acres” without knowing the exact size of the 360 million acre territory.
Anchorage Times publisher, Robert Atwood, was another volunteer statehood lobbyist. He recalled Secretary of Interior Fred Seaton’s efforts to make sure Alaskans knew the state would receive 90% of the revenue flowing from natural resources produced from Federal lands. On that basis, among others, voters supported statehood. Some, since then, have argued that the 90/10 ratio is a political formula rather than part of a compact and subject to change by the federal government.
My own observation is that over the years a variety of federal initiatives have worked to neutralize the Federal obligation. Federal actions have denied Alaskans reasonable access to the energy and other natural resources they were promised on federal and state lands. In retrospect, the Statehood Bill language might have been more artfully stated, but Alaskans at the time knew what the deal was and voted in good faith for it. To them, the Statehood Bill — not parts of it and their ratification of it — was a permanent compact.
We now have clear evidence that the Federal government has treated Alaska like a colony, abusing its citizens at will, even compromising the rule of law as it has violated terms of the government-people compact.
In www.northerngaspipelines.com, we have written extensively on the subject of “federal obstruction”, our term for “overreach”. Here are a number of examples we and others have chronicled over the past few years:
- April 2009. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visited Anchorage and other cities to conduct hearings on the Minerals Management Service (MMS, now BOEM) five-year Oil & Gas leasing programs. The 2007-12 and 2012-17 programs presented no new opportunities for exploration, only orders from the Secretary to cancel programs, conduct more studies and deny access by rejecting permit applications.
- August 2009. A White House Ocean Policy created by President Obama via Executive Order – without Congressional authority or funding — would have the effect of “zoning the oceans and Great Lakes” and would even give bureaucrats authority to restrict human behavior in areas of the country touched by rivers and streams leading into the oceans and Great Lakes. Since about ¾ of America’s coastline surrounds Alaska — and since Alaska has about 3 million lakes, rivers and streams — one could envision the last vestiges of free enterprise in the Last Frontier being snuffed out by bureaucratic manipulation of new ocean policy restrictions.
- September 2009. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) visited Alaska to hear testimony on whether it should grant a Clean Air Act permit to Shell Oil. EPA’s reluctance to approve Shell’s reasonable applications for permits to explore the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas on leases it purchased from the federal government in good faith resulted in continuous, unjustified rejections and delays in Shell’s exploration programs.
- March 2010. Governor Sean Parnell urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw its denial of ConocoPhillips Alaska’s reasonable permit application to construct facilities on its CD-5 Alpine Satellite Development within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. After long delays, the Corps finally issued the permit.
- July 2010. The Parnell Administration vowed to fight “…Improper listings and critical habitat designations with sound science and cost data,” referring to efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to designate 187,166 square miles as a critical habitat for polar bears when the population of the bears is not declining. It is a Federal overreach that Alaska and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation believe will cost Alaskans hundreds of millions of dollars in economic potential.
- September 2010. The State of Alaska sued the Secretary of the Interior in U.S. District Court to overturn the federal moratorium on offshore drilling in Alaska’s OCS, on grounds that the Obama administration violated federal law and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner.
- September 2010. Alaska challenged National Park Service regulations, claiming they violate federal law, usurp state sovereignty, and infringe the liberty of Alaskans.
- September 2010. Alaska objected to USFWS steps to seek wilderness designations for the 1002 area within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s 19 million acres that would prevent development of up to 16 billion barrels of oil.
- Killing Alaska’s Timber Jobs and Forestry Businesses. Although the Chugach and Tongass were established as working forests with multiple use mandates, today both are being managed like national parks, despite an annual sustainable harvest level of 520 million board feet set for the Tongass under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Over the past 20 years the forest industry has suffered repeated blows – many of them at the hands of the federal government. Federal policy changes were described in the 2012 Timber Jobs Task Force report to Governor Parnell. The Task Force found that “Federal policies and management practices fail to provide sufficient timber supply for Southeast Alaska’s timber industry” and that “Environmental groups have exerted undue influence over USFS policy and direction related to national forest management in Alaska.” Federal policy, including the Obama administration’s reluctance to honor a settlement agreement to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule, is killing an industry that only several decades ago was a cornerstone of the Southeast Alaska economy. In 1990, 473 million board feet of timber was harvested from the Tongass National Forest, but today the annual cut has fallen to only 21 million board feet. In 1990, there were more than 4,000 jobs in the forest industry and its support sector, today there are less than 1,000. Meanwhile, approximately 94 percent of the Tongass remains closed to timber harvesting and no commercial harvests are taking place in the Chugach National Forest, the nation’s second largest.
- Last year, the Federal government’s Bureau of Land Management closed half of the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska to oil and gas exploration and development while it has hypocritically refused for years to clean up federal drilling debris and hazardous waste that it created in the petroleum reserve (NPR-A Photo: ‘Knifeblade’ Pad). The US Fish and Wildlife Service has acted to more permanently recommend restricted access to the small sliver of land designated by Congress for oil and gas activity within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The EPA has unreasonably and many think, illegally, used authority of the Clean Water Act to determine whether it should stop a mining project on Alaska state lands before that project has even filed a permit application or plan of development.
Next Monday and Tuesday, a distinguished group of Alaskan Commissioners will gather to evaluate the issue of federal overreaching jurisdiction and identify possible solutions–along with the state’s citizens (Reserve space here).
The reason why this event is so important is that it will impact the future of every Alaskan.
The Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) once provided America with about 20% of its total domestic oil supply. Alaska was the Nation’s #1 oil producing state and contributed mightily to the national defense, to our balance of payments strength, to reasonable energy prices. In addition, the pipeline produced the lion’s share of Alaska’s state operating budget, now 90%. Over half of Alaska’s economy depends on TAPS throughput!
Today, Alaska production falls behind that of North Dakota, Texas and even California. TAPS throughput finds itself transporting only 1/4 its capacity and the amount of oil moving through Alaska’s economic umbilical cord is decreasing at a rate of 5-7% per year.
Yet, Alaska’s budget continues to grow. We have an unfunded state employee pension liability bigger than Detroit’s.
In short, Alaska is deep in debt, its annual revenue is decreasing and its annual costs continue to increase.
There are three ways to correct a dangerous and unsustainable future. We have to undertake some combination of increasing revenue and decreasing costs.
Both of these difficult challenges are in the laps of our elected leaders. Decreasing costs and increasing oil and mineral production revenue from state lands are state issues.
But filling TAPS with new oil also depends on state leadership to change the federal government’s policy against stonewalling natural resource projects in Alaska that could make a difference.
The federal government could work with Alaska to more reasonably develop: 1) the ANILCA 1002 area of ANWR, 2) NPR-A, and 3) OCS oil and gas resources. All three of these huge, potential oil and gas areas could infuse TAPS with a new stream of economic health for Alaska and contribute to the viability of a natural gas pipeline project.
If the federal government persists in blocking these and other initiatives, it will contribute to pinching off the economic lifeblood of Alaska while, at the same time, violating the intent if not the actual language of the Alaska Statehood Bill and the Compact with the people of Alaska.
Alaska could once again become a ward of the federal government. Should that happen, history will record the stark difference between the courage, creativity, leadership and determination of the 1959 generation of Alaskans and the 2013 generation.
Yes, Monday and Tuesday will be historic days for Alaska. The will to win or the desire for complacency will struggle those days. Some faithful Alaskans will respond to the call for sacrifice and battle to preserve the Compact. Some will, like ‘Royalists’ during the Revolutionary War, support the king, and his effort to emasculate the great state of Alaska.
See you there….
1) the 25 minute summary of the Alaska Statehood Compact below (scroll down) and how the federal government has broken its promises to the people of Alaska.
2) This more recent, documentary trilogy of how the federal government continues to abuse power and threaten the future of Alaska.
Any reader who absorbs this hours’ worth of history and the associated facts is sure to be armed with objective reasons why Alaskans must make a last ditch stand right now. Time is of the essence, to preserve the sovereignty of the state and enforce the statehood agreement which the Congress, the President and the People of Alaska memorialized via the Statehood Compact over 50 years ago.
If action is not taken now — by this generation — the speed at which the federal government is eroding the economy of the state will soon overpower its ability to recover. Like Gulliver, Alaska will find itself covered with Lilliputians who have bound its great potential to the ground until it is incapable of rising again, let along moving a single muscle.
Rise up, Alaskans! Act while you can! Sustain the sacrifices of your forebears who achieved statehood and the rights we are now losing. Be the generation that had the courage to combat — not the compliant colonists who willingly accepted — colonial rule.