New House Resource co-chairs sound right notes

To quote Slim Pickens’ Taggart from Blazing Saddles, “What in the wide world of sports is a-goin’ on here?”

In the decades since before and after Alaska statehood, the universal refrain among citizens and politicians is that the biggest hurdle to developing our vast natural resources is Washington, D.C.

Federal overreach. DC bureaucrats. Broken promises. Treehuggers.

After Donald Trump’s victory in the Nov. 8 election that carried several endangered blue state Republican senators to new terms, the GOP now holds unified control over Congress and the White House.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who along with junior Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan renounced their support of Trump in October, will retain her powerful chairmanship of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

While we don’t yet know who the new secretaries of the Interior and EPA will be, it is safe to believe that the last eight years of federal agencies actively working against Alaska’s interests are over for at least the next four.

As the results became apparent at Murkowski’s victory party at the 49th State Brewing Co. in Anchorage, the wish lists started forming.

ANWR.

NPR-A.

Arctic OCS.

The King Cove Road.

There was an almost giddiness as supporters brought these topics up with her, but she did sound a hint of caution.

“This isn’t Christmas,” she said. “We still have to govern.”

As a member of the Senate the last time the GOP held Congress and the White House, Murkowski saw firsthand how Republicans blew it and ended up turning over both houses to Democrats in 2006 and losing the presidency two years later.

Not even 15 hours later, however, we learned that three Alaska House Republicans were joining up with the Democrats to form a new majority whose membership on resource development is mixed at best.

It seems an amazing position for Alaska to be: with D.C. removed as an obstacle the biggest problem for resource development in the state could end up being our own legislators and Gov. Bill Walker, who has rattled the oil industry by vetoing more than $600 million worth of tax credits owed in the last two years and introducing proposals to raise production taxes that are supported by many in the new majority.

His close friend Robin Brena, who bought Walker’s law firm and office and has penned opinion columns claiming there’s $1 billion to $3 billion being left on the North Slope table, led an effort spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to unseat Walker’s opponents that was unsuccessful in the Senate but did succeed in flipping the House by knocking off two rural Democrats and Anchorage Republican Rep. Liz Vazquez.

That’s the pessimistic take.

The optimistic take is the words of new House Resources co-chairs Geran Tarr and Andy Josephson of Anchorage to be found here.

The pair, who also served on the committee last session, are sounding the absolute right notes on how the 30th Legislature must approach both tax credits and the Alaska LNG Project.

It is refreshing, to say the least, to hear Democrat leaders recognize that the state cannot damage the prospects for discoveries by independents Armstrong and Caelus on the North Slope that have the potential to produce hundreds of thousands of new barrels for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

No less refreshing is Tarr’s statement that the state is looking like an “unreliable” partner to industry and that has to be fixed in short order.

The co-chairs are also rightly skeptical about what is going on with AK LNG, how state leadership is going to take shape in the coming year and whether the Legislature is going to keep funding the effort without tangible progress.

So, in the spirit of what few cool-headed opponents of Trump there are, the new House majority needs to be given a chance to lead as well. On resource development, the early signals are positive.

Updated: 
11/17/2016 - 10:19am

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