Opinion

OPINION: Industry stability hangs on Fairbanks outcome

What’s a little more uncertainty among friends? If there’s anything the Alaska resource industry has been certain about over the past four years, it’s uncertainty. There was a huge sigh of relief Nov. 6 as the ill-conceived Ballot Measure 1 known as the Stand for Salmon initiative was shot down by a 2-1 margin and it appeared at the time that Republicans would regain control of the House of Representatives following a chaotic two-year rule by a Democrat-led coalition most notable for its endless tax proposals and three freshmen members either resigning or not seeking reelection for their unacceptable conduct toward women. That pair of election results combined with the decisive win by Mike Dunleavy against Mark Begich seemed to cement at least a two-year respite from the constant trips to Juneau for resource industry representatives to deal with every hare-brained attempt by House Resource Committee co-chairs Geran Tarr and Andy Josephson to raise oil production taxes. Gov. Bill Walker, who introduced a few oil tax increases of his own, never tamped down the worst inclinations of the House majority to keep fiddling with a tax system that not only produced revenue even as prices bottomed out but encouraged the industry to keep investing even as it lost billions of dollars. Most of the GOP House members quickly assembled on Nov. 7 to declare themselves the majority and Rep. Dave Talerico of Healy as the Speaker of the House. That started unraveling almost immediately as Valley gadfly Rep. David Eastman — who was censured by the House in 2017 for comments about rural Alaska women on the floor and stripped of his Ethics Subcommittee post in 2018 for leaking the existence of a confidential complaint to a reporter for this newspaper — declared he hadn’t decided whether to cast his vote for Talerico as Speaker. The caucus became even shakier as votes continued to be tallied in House District 1 in Fairbanks, where Republican Barton LeBon’s 79-vote lead on Election Night turned into a 10-vote deficit to Democrat Kathryn Dodge on Nov. 13 with the count to resume Nov. 16. A LeBon loss would produce a 20-20 split and set off a storm of wheeling and dealing by both sides to assemble a majority caucus. On the federal level, the Democrat takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives will no doubt produce gridlock, a flurry of subpoenas for the Trump administration and brinksmanship on government shutdowns, but for the resource development industry the effect should be fairly muted as there is little they can do to stop deregulation, the Executive Branch push for energy dominance or the pending opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Pending projects such as Greater Mooses Tooth-2, Hilcorp’s Liberty offshore development and the Donlin gold mine have their key federal permits in hand, and a large-scale plan is being crafted for ConocoPhillips’ promising Willow prospect in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. All in all, Alaska has about 400,000 barrels per day of production in some stage of permitting or construction that could come online in the early- to mid-2020s. Prices have been slipping lately, but the roughly $10 spread between Brent crude — to which Alaska North Slope oil is pegged — and West Texas Intermediate appears to be holding steady and makes the state an attractive place to invest by more than offsetting the transportation costs for getting it to market. If the Dunleavy administration follows through with its plans for real budget reform and sets a tone that restores credibility with the investor community, Alaska has a chance to set itself on a sounder footing while buoyed by an increase in oil prices that could considerably narrow the budget gap, at least temporarily. The state’s resource industry has good reason for optimism, and if LeBon pulls out the win in District 1 the state business climate will be well positioned for a way out of this lingering recession. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

Guest Commentary: Accredited universities help Alaska prosper

The University of Alaska Anchorage recently hosted a team of accreditors from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) from Oct. 8-10. The visitors witnessed a vibrant campus full of faculty, staff, and administrators who care deeply about our students, and who are enthusiastically dedicated to our educational mission.  The nine site visitors read the Accreditation Self Study that UAA produced, which compiled data and information from all aspects of the University, and during the campus visit met with faculty, students, staff, and administrators. The Northwest Commission will issue its final decision at its Board Meeting in January of 2019. This is a process that all NWCCU-accredited universities go through every seven years — and is the gold standard for any university.  Accreditation allows the students to receive federal financial aid and to receive degrees, certificates, and occupational endorsements that are recognized by employers and universities nationally. Because more than 80 percent of UAA’s graduates stay in Alaska, this process is helping to grow Alaska’s workforce by providing students with high-quality, nationally recognized credentials. To clarify, the UA system has a Board of Regents and president who provide administrative oversight of all three separately accredited universities and work with the governor and Legislature on our annual budget allocation from the State of Alaska. UAA, UAF and UAS have their own chancellors, who direct each of their respective institutions. UAA and its community campuses in Kenai, Homer, Kodiak, Prince William Sound and the Mat-Su, are very proud of our accomplishments, and we have worked very hard, despite the budget challenges the university has faced.  Each of our respective universities in the UA System, UAA, UAF and UAS, also have to go through this process every seven years, as we are separately accredited institutions. UAS will have their site visit in spring 2019, and UAF’s will be in fall 2019. UA is an enduring system. UAA alone has more than 17,000 students and 600 faculty, the most out of the three universities. Each of those and its community campuses have unique profiles and “personalities” that reflect our local communities and specialized programs that are unique. UAA became a unit within the University of Alaska in 1962 and has been separately accredited by the NWCCU since 1974; UAS was established in 1972, and UAF, formerly known as the University of Alaska, was established in 1935. The more than 17,000 UAA students reflect the history and community demographic of South Central, the most populous region of Alaska. UAA’s students are predominantly from Alaska. Almost one-third are first generation students, 10 percent are Alaska Native, and 34 percent represent ethnic minorities. We are a diverse campus! In 2017, UAA graduated 2,460 students with certificates and degrees. Most UAA graduates remain in Alaska and data show their annual income is greatly increased by having a degree.  We have over 100 programs, over 100 student clubs, and 13 NCAA sports. In conclusion, the Faculty Alliance, composed of faculty from UAA, UAF and UAS, congratulates UAA on their recent accreditation site visit, a major step in the process of reaffirmation, and supports continued collaboration across our institutions, and looks forward to the accreditation site visits scheduled for UAS in spring 2019 and for UAF in fall 2019.  Look forward to more op-ed pieces from the Faculty Alliance highlighting each of our three universities in the UA system, their distinct local personalities, and the unique strengths that each university brings to the State of Alaska. Chris Fallen, Ph.D. (UAF) is chair of the UA Faculty Alliance. Maria Williams, Ph.D. (UAA) is vice-chair of the UA Faculty Alliance. The University of Alaska Board of Regents established the Faculty Alliance to serve as a mechanism for faculty UA System governance.

OPINION: Dems’ blue wave hits red brick wall in Alaska

Most situations in life can be summed up by a quote from Seinfeld or Yogi Berra, and Election Night 2018 was no exception. One from Berra captures it nicely: “It’s getting late early.” After holding high aspirations of defeating Mike Dunleavy following incumbent Gov. Bill Walker’s decision to drop out and throw his support behind Mark Begich, and teased by polling and fundraising into thinking political neophyte Alyse Galvin had a chance of knocking off 23-term incumbent and Dean of the U.S. House Don Young, Democrat hopes were dashed almost immediately. The first set of results gave the Republican Dunleavy a lead of about 6,500; Young led by more than 4,000 and Begich-endorsed Ballot Measure 1, aka Stand for Salmon, trailed by 19,000. Berra also once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Well, it was over. After the first round of returns it was only a matter of how large the final margins would be, and whether Republicans could retake the majority in the state House after a two-year hiatus in the minority while a Democrat-led coalition aided by RINOs Paul Seaton, Louise Stutes and Gabrielle LeDoux pushed for higher taxes on oil and new taxes on income. At the end of the night it appears the GOP will indeed claim House majority status in Juneau after all its incumbents won, Seaton was defeated soundly by Sarah Vance and coalition member Jason Grenn, an Anchorage independent, was unseated by Sara Rasmussen thanks in part to the presence of perennial candidate Dustin Darden pulling nearly 800 votes on the District 22 ballot. The night was essentially a clean sweep other than the still uncertain outcome in Senate District A in Fairbanks where Senate President Pete Kelly, the Republican incumbent, leads by just 11 votes over his Democrat challenger Rep. Scott Kawasaki, whose vacated seat seems headed to Republican control in a major flip for the party with a win by Barton LeBon. While national Democrats celebrated taking over the U.S. House of Representatives and President Donald Trump happily endorsed Republican punching bag Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House, the blue party took a shellacking in Alaska. Begich, apparently so stunned by how badly he was beaten by Dunleavy, took no calls on Election Night and as of 10 a.m. on Nov. 7 still hadn’t issued a statement on his Facebook, Twitter or official campaign pages, the latter of which still touts his lead in the Alaska Survey Research poll by Ivan Moore as his most recent post. The former Anchorage mayor and single-term U.S. senator who was defeated by current Sen. Dan Sullivan in 2014 is largely regarded as a pretty smooth politician, but there can be no doubt he miscalculated terribly by jumping on the Stand for Salmon bandwagon while it was still a three-way race for governor. In a political move so transparent it would attract bird strikes, Begich’s attempt to draw votes from Walker, who opposed the measure, backfired spectacularly. With a margin of nearly 21,000 votes and 98 percent of precincts in, the outcome for governor may have been a foregone conclusion regardless, but it became inevitable when the once reliably pro-resource development Begich turned off so many potential supporters with his position on Stand for Salmon. Nor did it help that Begich was in favor of taxing all of Alaskans in order to extract some revenue from a couple thousand out-of-state North Slope workers. One thing slightly less short-lived than Begich’s campaign was the House bipartisan coalition that must be the briefest in Alaska history. We’re a long way from the gleeful press conference Nov. 9, 2016, when the majority caucus was announced. Since then, the “Wack Pack” of Reps. Dean Westlake, Zach Fansler and Justin Parrish are all out after a series of transgressions ranging from sexual harassment to assault against women in Juneau; and the basically unflappable Rep. Sam Kito quit the caucus late in this past session after growing sick of LeDoux’s high-handed rule over the Rules Committee. While there may be a place for Stutes in the to-be-formed GOP House majority, LeDoux should find herself in the wilderness after finally burning a bridge or two too many. Alaskans chose a clear path on Election Day, and for the candidates from Dunleavy to Vance the easy part is over. Delivering, as the Democrats found out, is a much tougher task. ^ Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

GUEST COMMENTARY: Alaska Chamber urges a ‘no’ vote on Ballot Measure 1

The Alaska Chamber has served as the nexus between public policy and the Alaska private sector economy for 65 years. Rarely in that time has an outside agenda presented a risk as great as Ballot Measure 1. On Nov. 6, I will Stand for Alaska and I urge voters to Stand for Alaska as well. I’m asking you to join the 500+ local businesses, Native corporations, nonprofit organizations, labor unions, and the Alaska Chamber members who plan to VOTE NO on 1. Ballot Measure 1 is deeply flawed, with serious unintended consequences for Alaska and Alaskans. Alaskans want healthy salmon and successful fisheries. That universal desire is why Alaska is proudly recognized as a world leader in responsible fish and habitat management, and this poorly conceived initiative does not advance that interest. The initiative puts future transportation improvements at risk such as the Seward, Steese, and Glenn highways. Each of these projects might not go forward under this measure. Existing projects, like the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, may not be to able to have their permits renewed. Passing this ballot measure could make wastewater treatment plants, dams, ports and other infrastructure projects nearly impossible or cost prohibitive to develop and maintain, particularly in rural Alaska. This ballot measure is an issue that promises to negatively impact all Alaska regardless of location and political affiliation. Many may not be aware of the serious consequences to business and development in Alaska by the passing of Ballot Measure 1. Please look carefully at the initiative before voting. Share this with your friends and employees, and encourage them to do the same. Information is available online at standforak.com. I encourage you to join me in Standing for Alaska by VOTING NO on 1 at the ballot box on Nov. 6. Curtis W. Thayer is the President and CEO of the Alaska Chamber.

FISH FACTOR: Begich shares thoughts on fisheries issues in Kodiak

“With fisheries, it’s almost the forgotten resource of our state as an economic driver. It’s almost like they are an afterthought. We have to realign that,” said Mark Begich, Democratic candidate for Alaska governor, as we readied for an interview during his trip to Kodiak last week. Begich came to Kodiak despite the cancelled fisheries debate caused by a no show by his Republican opponent, Mike Dunleavy, who has not responded to requests to share his ideas and vision for Alaska’s oldest industry. “I think it’s appalling,” Begich said. “I think it shows his lack of respect for our coastal communities and their importance to the economy of this great state and the people who live and work here.” Begich spoke easily and at length on a wide range of fishing industry topics. He called state funding for fisheries research and stock assessments a top priority. “We are never going to be able to manage our fisheries resource the proper way without it. And I think there are opportunities through federal, state as well as foundation money that I believe is out there to help us do this,” he said. Begich said he is a strong supporter of Alaska’s hatchery program. “I know there is some conversation going on about hatchery fish impacts in the ocean … But there is no real science around that and the hatcheries have been very successful for us as a state,” he said. In terms of selecting an Alaska Department of Fish and Game commissioner, Begich said good management skills and the ability to bring people together are critical. “People are frustrated. They feel like their voice isn’t heard. We need commissioners who are willing to step up to the plate and recognize that it’s their job to bring people together, solve problems and move forward,” Begich said. “Obviously, I would want him or her to be knowledgeable about fisheries. We need someone who understands the controversies that are out there, the uniqueness of our resource, and how to balance it with making sure we do things for the long term and not for the moment.” The average age of Alaska’s fishing permit holders is 50, and Begich believes the state can help fend off a “graying of the fleet” crisis and give young entrants a boot up. “First we have to make sure the fisheries remain as stable as possible so future generations can get into that business. Another issue is the capital it takes,” Begich said. “We should look at how to utilize the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, which is a financing arm of the state, and is usually designed for big projects. “We should figure out if they can be a player in helping to bring low cost capital to the table so that people who want to get into fishing have a chance and are not denied because they don’t have the money or the capacity to borrow. I think there is a tool here that has been underutilized by the state for the fishing industry and a lot of the small business industries that we have.” The Trump Administration’s push for offshore fish farms gets a thumbs down from Begich. “Alaska is known for our premium product because we are wild caught,” he said. “Farmed fish could impact our natural stocks if improperly managed. I don’t want any of that in Alaska, for sure.” Begich also is no fan of Trump’s tariffs on seafood going to and from China, Alaska’s biggest customer. “This spat that the president has with China is costing Alaskans jobs and money and putting a damper on our products,” he fumed. “With fisheries, if we’re not careful it could add another $500 million to $700 million to the cost of our fish products sold to China. What they will do is decide to buy products from another place and once they do that, we’ll lose our market share.” “We should be teaming up right now with the governors of Washington, Oregon and the Gulf states, working with the Trump Administration and the State Department and start pounding on them that this is hurting American jobs,” he added. “These are dangerous games for us to be playing and the effects are long lasting.” Begich said as governor, he would reinstate the coastal zone management program, which would bring back Alaskans’ ability to have input regarding management of our coastline. Alaska is the only state that does not have that outlet for the public’s voice. A coastal zone management program in Alaska was in place starting in the 1970s but expired in 2011 when lawmakers and then-Gov. Sean Parnell failed to agree on its extension. “We need to have that coastal zone management program. It is about our own sovereignty in deciding what we want to do, and to have public comments on our coastal zone versus the federal government controlling it,” Begich said. “Secondly, it provides millions of dollars to the state that are rightfully ours and going to other states right now.” Other protein industries, such as beef and pork, use everything but the squeal. But in Alaska, most of the seafood trimmings end up as waste. Begich called that “short sighted” and said he believes that there is tremendous economic potential for Alaska’s billions of pounds of fish parts. “We need to have the financing available to build the infrastructure that will allow these companies to do maximum utilization of their seafood,” Begich said. “We also need to think about how we can use marketing in a way that helps utilize all of every product.” Begich did not hesitate when asked what he views as the biggest threat to Alaska’s fisheries. “Climate change,” he said. “Ocean acidification, warming waters — these are things that right now we don’t have enough information about to understand what the long term impacts are going to be, and it is clear that there are going to be impacts.” “The state must put investment into research and better utilizing our university so we understand what we can do, if at all, to mitigate the impacts of climate change to our fisheries,” Begich said, adding that the state also has its own goal to reach. “We have to get to our goal of 50 percent or greater of renewable energy so we can start doing our part in this world of making sure we put less emissions into the air.” “We have to do it to prepare and protect our environment, our industries and our economy,” Begich said. “Secondly, we are the natural lab for a changing climate and we can become a leader in figuring out solutions to the challenges we face and show the rest of the world how to do it right.” EM sign up Pot cod and longline vessels fishing in federal waters were able to sign up by Nov. 1 for electronic monitoring of their catches for 2019. This year was the first time that the EM systems got the go ahead for use on boats under 60 feet; the program has now expanded to include more and larger boats. “The cap for 2018 was 145 vessels. Since then the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in June increased the number of vessels that can participate in the EM pool to 165,” said Abby Turner-Franke, project coordinator at the North Pacific Fisheries Association in Homer, which has helped get the program out on the water. Malcolm Milne, NPFA president, said the EM system is simple to use. “Once your boat is wired you get a camera and instead of carrying a human observer, you just turn the cameras on and they record everything coming over the rails,” he explained. “When the set is done, the camera is off and at the end of your trip you mail in the hard drive to be reviewed in Seattle. It took a trip or two to get used to the whole system, but after that, you don’t even realize it’s there at all.” In years of test trials, the EM cameras proved they could track and identify over 95 percent of the species required for fishery management decisions. All costs are covered by grants from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

COMMENTARY: Initiative process is wrong way to change permitting system

As leaders of Alaska’s three largest economic development organizations, we know our cities want to see new economic opportunities come to our respective areas, and we align to oppose policies and address issues that diminish or take away those opportunities. Our position on Ballot Measure 1 is one such example: We stand united in opposition to the ballot initiative for one very simple reason: the threat it poses to our local economies, and our state’s economy. On the macro level, we agree that an issue as complex as permitting has no place on the ballot, especially when that regulation that seeks to prioritize the relative value of Alaska’s diverse natural resources. Complex issues should evolve in public, include robust and open public discussion, and occur under a thorough vetting process that involves all impacted parties. Ballot Measure 1 did not go through this process and leaves voters with one way to participate: a yes or no vote. We advocate for a no vote on this proposition. Actions like this also send a negative signal to investors — that Alaska is a particularly risky place to do business — and has a chilling effect on many of the companies and businesses we need to invest in our state. On the regional level, all three of our cities are facing serious negative consequences if Ballot Measure 1 passes. In Anchorage, we fear further job losses in resource development if current and new projects can’t get permitted or are repeatedly sued by activists determined to shut down our oil, gas, and mining industries. We are just starting to see good news again from these sectors, with big new projects either underway or in the advanced planning stages. On a more practical level, serious questions have been raised about the ability of our wastewater utility to maintain its current operations under the terms of this measure. The answer to whether Anchorage will be forced to pay for a multi-million dollar upgrade to our wastewater treatment system because of Ballot Measure 1 is unknown. The fact that we can’t determine from the ballot measure’s decidedly vague language whether such an expense is coming our way is cause for great concern. In Fairbanks, our concern stems mainly from Ballot Measure 1’s prioritization of one industry at the expense of all others. Our economy can be damaged in very real ways if this measure passes. For example, the Fairbanks community recently celebrated Fort Knox Gold Mine the announcement of its upcoming expansion — and extension of a resource base that may extend the mine’s operational life by a decade or more. Fort Knox is the largest contributor in tax revenue to the local municipality, paying more than $8.7 million in property taxes last year alone, and the mine pays wages that average in excess of $75,000 a year to its 100-plus local employees. The mine is one of the best, largest, and strongest private-sector employers in the Borough. The Fort Knox expansion is unlikely to move forward as currently defined — if at all — under the terms of Ballot Measure 1. Given the huge impact Fort Knox has on the Fairbanks economy (and it, in combination with mines like Pogo and Usibelli, have on the regional economy), risking this project and others like it is unacceptable. In Juneau, we also believe a ballot measure is a poor vehicle for this type of complex public policy. The fishing industry is a huge economic driver for us and all Southeast Alaska, and yet we are opposed to Ballot Measure 1. State officials have testified about the uncertainty surrounding hydroelectric projects, mining operations, tourism activities, and other components of our economy under this ballot measure. In everyday terms, many of the amenities we enjoy in Juneau were built on or near wetlands: Fred Meyer, Costco, Egan Drive, the airport expansion, our police station, and at least one of our fire stations likely would not have been eligible for construction had Ballot Measure 1 been in place or made so expensive that project economics would have ruled them out. To be clear, all three of our organizations believe in public process, support citizen input, and encourage Alaskans with concerns about fish habitat to get involved. We also understand that Alaska invested a great deal of time, thought, and effort creating what we and others recognize as a model system of permit application review and issuance. It is for this reason we urge all involved parties to come to the table and make specific, reasonable requests of our lawmakers and regulators using that existing, proven, balanced and effective public process. We all agree that our unique Alaskan ecosystems and resources are high-value and worth protecting. We also agree that broadly-shared prosperity and dynamic, local, regional, and statewide economies, achieved through the balanced development of all Alaska’s resources, is the goal. We believe we can all agree that passage of an under-considered, imbalanced, overly-broad and potentially devastating ballot measure is not the way to achieve that worthy goal. We encourage a NO vote on Ballot Measure 1 on Nov. 6. Bill Popp is the president of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.; Brian Holst is the president of the Juneau Economic Development Corp.; and Jim Dodson is the president of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp.

COMMENTARY: Former Attorneys General: Ballot Measure 1 is bad law

As former Attorneys General, and Alaskans fortunate enough to call this great state home, we urge Alaskans to vote “No” on Ballot Measure 1. The citizens who drafted our state Constitution understood that the protection of our natural resources was of the utmost importance, but they also acknowledged that a state with an abundance of natural resources, yet thinly populated and with little connectivity in terms of a road system, would have to rely on the responsible development. This principle is best expressed in Article VIII, Section 1 of our constitution, which states that “(it) is the policy of the State to encourage the settlement of its land and the development of its resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest.” Ballot Measure 1 disrupts this balance to the detriment of all Alaskans. The Alaska Supreme Court recently ruled that the initiative could remain on the ballot, but only after striking its unconstitutional sections. However, even after striking the most onerous provisions, the court observed that “viewed as a whole,” it was apparent that Ballot Measure 1 would create a broad new definition of what is protected fish habitat and make Alaska’s “fish habitat protection statutes significantly more restrictive.” For example, Ballot Measure 1 contains, according to the Alaska Supreme Court, “a plethora of undefined terms.” For landowners trying to comply with the law, this is a step in the wrong direction — and this is just as true for an entity seeking to develop a large mine as it is for land owners wishing to install a culvert on their property. It also radically expands the opportunity for legal challenges to granted permits, allowing anyone to challenge a permit in court resulting in costly delays and endless litigation. Under current laws and regulations, studies are required to determine whether a body of water contains certain kinds of fish. If Ballot Measure 1 passes, this flips, and all waters in the state will be assumed to be fish habitat until proved otherwise. This has the potential to create a legal quagmire for property owners, especially private citizens. Thousands of Alaskans have riverfront or lake front property, and there are many improvements to property that might impact a body of water, such as a stream, running on private property. Ballot Measure 1 may force a landowner to pay for an expensive habitat study to prove that fish will not be impacted by a planned improvement. Worse, Ballot Measure 1 changes the penalties from civil to criminal for property owners who fail to secure the required permits. Failure to seek a permit for even minor construction activity in a river flood plain, which encompasses huge areas of Alaska, will make individual Alaskans, workers on municipal projects, and business owners criminals under our laws. We are not alone in expressing grave doubts. We join dozens of groups and organizations in opposing this Ballot Measure. Contractors, regional and village Native corporations, labor unions, resource development and energy companies, and responsible Alaskans are rightfully concerned that another significant project may never be built in this state if the initiative passes — and this would certainly be true for rural Alaska as well. Ballot Measure 1 is a bad law. It has not been subject to public comment, hearings, or review by regulators or independent scientists. Alaska deserves better than Ballot Measure 1, and we urge Alaskan voters to reject this fatally flawed measure when they vote on Nov. 6. Signed by: Craig Richards, John Burns, Michael Geraghty, Dave Marquez and Sen. Dan Sullivan.

COMMENTARY: Ballot Measure 1 is necessary update to Alaska law

The Alaska Policy Forum is part of a nationwide network of Koch brothers-funded extreme right-wingers advocating for the privatization of public education, “right-to-work” laws and elimination of most safeguards for our air, land and water, and its recent claims that those who are advocating for updates to Alaska’s existing salmon habitat permitting laws are “outsiders” is a classic deflection. The fact is, large-scale industrial development poses real risk to Alaska’s wild salmon runs, and now is the time to modernize salmon habitat laws. Development projects can and should happen. The question for the moment is: Will we take the steps to do these projects right? A “yes” on Ballot Measure 1 is the answer Alaska’s salmon, and the people who rely on them, need. A “no” leads us down the same path trod by every other region that once enjoyed salmon runs like those we still love and depend on. In the past 15 years, Alaska’s safeguards and oversight have been eroded. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Habitat Division has been hollowed out. The Coastal Zone Management Program has been eliminated. Meanwhile, federal laws like the Clean Water Act are under attack. It’s time for us Alaskans to take control of our future. Pebble mine in Bristol Bay is the starkest example of the current unprecedented threats to Alaska’s salmon. But the threats aren’t just on the horizon. Recent system failures and a couple near misses can also teach us a lot. We saw first-hand how threadbare the existing safety net truly is in 2011 when an Australian mining company operated for two years in total disregard of the permits and agreements entered with ADFG and the Alaska Department Environmental Conservation. In August of that year, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist flying a survey over the Salmon River near Goodnews Bay observed discharge from the Platinum Creek Mine, which was causing extremely turbid waters in the river. For two full mining seasons XS Platinum Inc. dumped a toxic slurry of untreated placer mining wastewater from its Platinum Creek Mine into the Salmon River, compromising the survival and habitat of salmon and other fish species in the waterway. In 2014, five officers and employees of XSP were indicted for conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act, violations of the Clean Water Act permits issued by EPA and ADEC and for submitting false statements to state and federal permitting agencies. The State did not join in the case or pursue any additional prosecution. To add insult to injury, several company officials avoided punishment when they skipped the country. This is clearly a system in need of an update. Salmon dodged a major bullet in the proposed Chuitna strip coal mine on the west side of Cook Inlet. The first phase called for the strip mining of coal through 13.7 miles of salmon spawning and rearing habitat, the removal of 1,361 acres of wetlands and the discharge of 7 million gallons of water a day into the Chuitna River. A total of 57 miles of salmon stream were ultimately at risk. The proponent of the project, PacRim, said they would rebuild the salmon stream when they were done, a feat no mining company has ever accomplished anywhere on Earth. The only thing that stopped this travesty was the market — a ton of coal is now worth less than a king salmon. This is cold comfort, especially when state officials are saying they are open to another proposal to mine the area. Finally, there’s the proposed Susitna-Wantana Dam project, shelved by Gov. Bill Walker due to cost. Mega dams are terrible for salmon. We know this. Yet a state agency pushed the project anyway. It’s a ridiculous situation in which those responsible for stewardship of salmon runs were asked to sit on the sidelines while another state agency pushed a plan to fundamentally alter one of Alaska most important salmon systems. Again, clear rules and reasonable laws and regulations did not stop Susitna — it was cost. The rest of the Pacific Northwest, after approving these same kinds of projects without protections for salmon habitat, has spent billions of dollars to restore once-thriving salmon runs. Alaska is heading in that direction, but it’s not too late. A “yes” vote on Ballot Measure 1 on Nov. 6 allows us to chart a better course. Longtime Alaskan conservationist Tim Bristol is the executive director of SalmonState. He lives in Homer.

COMMENTARY: Alaska’s habitat management model works

We, the signatories, are Alaska fisheries managers, scientists, regulators, and former state officials. We have spent our careers working on fisheries management, science, and resource management. For more than 60 years, Alaska has responsibly balanced resource development and the protection of our state’s natural resources — including our fisheries. As topic experts, our interest in supporting that balance makes us question the viability of Ballot Measure 1. Ballot Measure 1 replaces Alaska’s scientific process for identifying, studying and permitting fish habitat with new and untested regulations. Today, when a project is on the horizon, we go out to the area in question and conduct numerous studies, including water turbidity, fish counts, escapement rates, temperature, water levels, and so on. Multiple state and federal agencies collaborate to make this all happen. And when it comes time to evaluate a permit, the data collected is scrutinized and carefully considered before any decisions on how to move forward, or even if to move forward, are made. Alaska’s approach to fisheries management has been codified in law, acts as a blueprint for fisheries management, and is widely praised as best practices around the country and the world. It is a model that has worked in permitting both industry and community projects, like pipelines, major dams and roadways that enable Alaskans to live their everyday lives. Finding balance has been the responsibility of those who have worked in fisheries management for much of their careers. Reasonable improvements could be made to our current laws, but Ballot Measure 1 was written with no public input on how to improve habitat protections already in place and it unreasonably overhauls current law. Ballot Measure 1 proposes a system that is unworkable, unmanageable and unaffordable. Moreover, Ballot Measure 1 was drafted in private without public review or scrutiny. That approach flies directly in the face of our greatest responsibility: to review and scrutinize the data before arriving at a decision. We believe that lack of transparency results in a ballot measure rife with vague and imprecise language that will create confusion and uncertainty in how we permit and protect our anadromous fish in Alaskan waters. The issue here is more than just a debate over process. Salmon runs are down across most of Alaska. Ballot Measure 1 supporters point to this measure as a needed fix. However, Ballot Measure 1 fails to address the actual challenges facing wild salmon today in our waters. Many experts have identified various changing ocean conditions as contributing factors to this problem. One of those is the mass of warm water located in the Gulf of Alaska — the so-called “blob.” There are other factors contributing as well, such as increasing presence of invasive predatory fish, ocean acidification, and food-source competition. In a recent article published on the Alaska Public Radio website, ADFG biologist Nicole Zeise stated that “most of the data suggests that the problem’s in the marine environment … Freshwater systems are healthy, producing plenty of smolt and fry going out. It’s just that something’s going on in the ocean that we can’t control.” The recent Chinook Symposium in Sitka in May helped highlight the current science about the decline in salmon runs. Salmon researcher Ed Jones was quoted in another Alaska Public Radio broadcast discussing the down cycle in salmon. “They’re dying at sea. So yes, fisheries, seals, killer whales, are all added factors, but the biggest driver is Mother Nature right now,” said Jones, further highlighting changing ocean conditions as a cause for declining salmon runs. If we want to protect our salmon for future generations, then we need more analysis and data in order to generate an effective plan. In the meantime, we urge Alaskans to learn more about Ballot Measure 1 and what it could do to our current, effective management. Alaska needs a balanced, effective policy for protecting our resources—and Ballot Measure 1 fails that test. Signed, Randy Bates, Former Division Director of Habitat, Department of Fish &Game Ed Fogels, Former Deputy Commissioner &Former Director of the Office of Project Management and Permitting, Department of Natural Resources Kerry Howard, Former Division Director of Habitat, ADFG Thomas E. Irwin, Former DNR Commissioner Bill Jeffress, Former Director of the Office of Project Management and Permitting, DNR Doug Vincent Lang, Former Director of Wildlife Conservation; Assistant Director of Sport Fish; and Special Assistant to the Commissioner, ADFG Bob Loeffler, Former Director of Division of Mining, Land and Water, DNR Ginny Litchfield Former Habitat Division Area Manager to the Kenai Peninsula, ADFG Bill Morris, Former Division of Habitat Regional Supervisor-Northern Region, ADFG Slim Morstad, Former Area Management Biologist-Naknek/Kvichak, ADFG Marty K. Rutherford, Former DNR Commissioner

COMMENTARY: Money from outside Alaska distorts policy debates

Since its inception, the Alaska Policy Forum has been guided by a vision of continuously growing prosperity in Alaska. Our work is to support policy and leadership that maximizes individual opportunity and empowers Alaskans to pursue that opportunity freely and with confidence. We believe in our state and its people. We are optimistic and believe a bright future lies ahead. To ensure that bright future, Alaska’s voters and policymakers need to be able to make informed decisions based on a solid foundation of knowledge, transparency, and clarity regarding issues that will shape our path forward. Too often, in today’s political landscape, that’s simply not possible. This is, in part, because the high-profile debates currently underway in Alaska are being increasingly influenced by an influx of serious money from outside of our state. This growing pool of funding is being used to distort debates and advance agendas that are driven not by the best interests of our state, but by activists, advocates, foundations, and billionaires from all over the country. This money is changing the face of policy in Alaska, and it’s doing so behind closed doors. That’s bad for our state and runs contrary to the principles of sound policymaking. That’s why the Alaska Policy Forum is launching a new site focused on detailing and chronicling the Outside money that is impacting policy in Alaska and putting the agendas of environmental activists ahead of our own. This isn’t a new or unfamiliar dynamic for our state. For decades, Outside environmental interests opposed to resource development in Alaska have sought to influence local, state, and federal decisions impacting Alaska policy — like opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They continue to do so today and one prominent advocacy campaign stands out as the flagship of their effort: Ballot Measure 1. Ballot Measure 1 would overhaul the way Alaska regulates permitting for development projects ranging from energy infrastructure to roads and bridges. Supporters of Ballot Measure 1 state they are acting to protect salmon. The reality of Ballot Measure 1 is much different and it has the potential to have a serious detrimental impact on both existing and future economic development in Alaska. What’s more, implementation would require additional state spending to meet the regulatory requirements. The burden of the policies enacted by Ballot Measure 1 would fall upon state regulators, creating an ever-larger strain on our already strapped state budget. Who, then, is behind Ballot Measure 1? Those supporting Ballot Measure 1 include a handful of local groups, including the official Yes for Salmon campaign as well as Stand for Salmon, the Alaska Center, Salmon State, and Wild Salmon Center organizations. But the money behind those groups isn’t local. In fact, there’s a web of outside money behind Yes for Salmon. Take the New Venture Fund, a Washington, DC-based entity with a long history of dropping into local debates with big money and big ideas about how to shape local issues in a way that advances broader environmentalist priorities. The New Venture Fund contributed at least $400,000 to help establish Salmon State and they are also listed as the employer of the Alaska Center activist managing the Yes for Salmon effort. But the Outside money in Alaska goes much deeper than this. Nearly all of the money New Venture Fund pumped into Salmon State came from the California-based Hewlett Foundation _ another group known for extreme climate activism. Other big names — like billionaire activist Tom Steyer and Keystone XL agitators Bold Alliance — are plying their trade in Alaska in an effort to impose an agenda contrary to our own. Alaskans deserve to know who’s pulling the strings in our state. In the coming weeks, the Alaska Policy Forum will be looking into the Outside money that is impacting policy in Alaska. Our mission is to empower and educate Alaskans and policymakers, and ultimately to help cultivate a pro-growth policy environment built on principles of transparency and honesty. The debate we have today will inform the decisions we make at the ballot box and will in turn shape our state’s future. We’ll be there every step of the way, working to shed light on the web of Outside money behind Yes for Salmon — and broader efforts to derail Alaska’s economic success. ^ Larry Barsukoff, JD/MBA, is the Director of Operations for the Alaska Policy Forum.

COMMENTARY: China tries to hide illegal trade practices as tariffs hit

As President Trump imposes new tariffs on Chinese exports, Beijing is countering with a public relations offensive. In a recent “white paper,” China’s State Council argued that any trade dispute is entirely the fault of the US. Beijing claims that it absolutely plays by the rules of the World Trade Organization, and doesn’t hack other nations’ intellectual property. One shouldn’t expect less of China’s autocratic regime. After racking up trillions of dollars in trade surpluses with the United States over the past few decades, it would indeed be surprising if Beijing admitted to any faults, or chose to abandon its winning strategy. But facts are stubborn things. When China joined the WTO in 2001, it promised to move to a market economy and to compete on a free-market basis with advanced nations. President Bill Clinton promoted China’s WTO accession, saying it would make them “more like us.” That never happened. The Coalition for a Prosperous America has identified many instances where China is supporting and protecting its own industries with government subsidies and preferential treatment. And as researchers Usha and George Haley have documented, China took entry into the WTO as the beginning of an opportunity for “aggressively subsidizing targeted industries in order to dominate global markets.” The Haleys found $27 billion in energy subsidies that China’s steel industry received between 2000 and 2007, making it the world’s No. 1 steel producer. Similarly, China’s paper industry received $33 billion in government subsidies. Such massive subsidies vastly expanded China’s economy. And while US consumers often assume that China’s manufacturing advantage comes from cheap labor, the Haleys found that labor amounted to “between 2 percent and 7 percent of production costs” for such key industries as solar, steel, glass, paper, and auto parts. Yet China routinely sold such goods for “25 percent to 30 percent less than those from the U.S. or the European Union,” thanks to industrial subsidies, a currency manipulated to below-market levels, and import controls. All of this flies in the face of China’s WTO obligations, with Beijing having promised to halt the deliberation undervaluation of its currency. Similarly, the multi-billion dollar subsidies that Beijing doles out to its state-owned enterprises remain actionable under WTO rules. Essentially, the Chinese government chose to specialize in what they believed would make China a superpower, and they’ve shown remarkable success in transforming a desperately poor, backward dictatorship into the world’s No. 2 economic power. None of this is acknowledged in China’s recent white paper, however. Nor does China admit to hacking, intellectual property theft, or forced technology transfer. American multinational companies often voluntarily enter into agreements to set up joint ventures in China. But the price of doing business is the transfer of technology to Chinese “partners.” Such deals provide only short-term benefit before China has sucked out all the relevant technology — and begins favoring its own suppliers. The European Chamber of Commerce in China has become increasingly concerned about this coerced technology transfer, stating: “foreign companies are often pushed to transfer technology as the price of market entry, which is in contravention of (China’s) commitments as a member of the World Trade Organization.” Finally, there are China’s illegal forms of technology transfer, including industrial espionage, reverse engineering, and evasion of US export control laws. A June report by the White House identified 27 different techniques by which China’s economic aggression threatens US intellectual property. It’s estimated that cyber-espionage costs U.S. industry an astonishing $400 billion per year, with 90 percent originating in China. China doesn’t appear to have modified its behavior since President Donald Trump took a more aggressive tone on trade. And Beijing’s claims of fair play cannot whitewash such self-serving behavior. The U.S. and China are heading towards economic disengagement unless Beijing modifies its behavior. If that happens, China will be the loser. Jeff Ferry is the research director of the Coalition for a Prosperous America.

COMMENTARY: A fix for the deficit of trust created by PFD cuts

Over the past four years, Alaska’s political class has focused on addressing the state’s budget deficit, and rightly so. When the price of oil crashed, the state found itself facing a multi-billion-dollar deficit. But as our campaign hears from everyday Alaskans across this great land, a deficit more corrosive to the health of our republic is emerging: a deficit of trust. Alaskans are leery of politicians who say one thing and do another. When Bill Walker ran for office in 2014, he said he had “no intention” of cutting Permanent Fund dividend checks. Not long after his inauguration, however, he was singing a different tune. In the span of three years, his administration denied every man, woman and child in Alaska over $3,700 each. The governor’s dividend-cut policy isn’t wrong solely because it’s bad for the economy — paying Alaskans a full dividend would provide a tremendous boost to Alaska, which suffers from anemic growth, high unemployment, and outmigration. It’s wrong because it severed trust between the people and their representatives. The Alaska Permanent Fund and dividend program were established by the people in 1976 and 1982, respectively. The people were wise enough then to know politicians would be tempted to spend away the oil boom and so constitutionally protected some of the revenue and created the dividend program to protect the fund. Since 1982, the dividend program has worked as intended, protecting the fund while benefitting Alaskan families. Then suddenly — after more than three decades — the deal changed. Walker unilaterally cut dividends at the worst possible time and without direct input from the people. If given the opportunity to serve, mending the trust deficit created by Walker will be my top priority. It’s no secret that I am the only candidate in this race who supports protecting the traditional PFD formula. But I also believe the people of Alaska should settle this issue directly, which is why I support going to the people for an advisory vote before any changes are considered to the PFD — at minimum — and ultimately believe the people should have the opportunity to vote on protecting the PFD in the state constitution. In our system of government, the people are sovereign, and no change to the Permanent Fund would long survive without their direct consent. Such a vote would restore trust between the people and government officials, and the outcome would be respected on all sides. If the people were wise enough to establish the Permanent Fund and a spending limit, then there’s no reason to doubt their wisdom in dealing with today’s challenges. Despite the failed leadership of the current governor on this and many other issues, he wants another four years, and is vying with lifelong politician Mark Begich for the chance to accelerate a tax and spend agenda. In every town hall, forum and debate, Walker and Begich are in vigorous agreement. They say we must cut the PFD to save it, that new taxes are inevitable and state spending has been cut to the bone. They’re convinced that wise decision makers in government know how to spend your money better than you do. But Alaskans aren’t buying it. We know the PFD isn’t broken and state government spends roughly three times the national average per person. That’s why Alaskans support more reductions to state spending, oppose new taxes and know the enemy of the budget isn’t the PFD — it’s out-of-control spending. Unless we get spending under control, government will consume the other half of Alaskans’ PFDs, and no amount of new taxes will be enough. That’s the path my opponents will take us down. I hope to lead us down a different path. If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, then Alaskans can be confident I will remain true to my word. I voted on behalf of my constituents against a budget that didn’t pay Alaskans a full dividend, because I knew there was a better way. Alaska is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and enough financial assets to get us through this challenge. With the right leadership and policies in place, we can resolve the budget deficit without PFD cuts and new taxes. If we control state spending and maintain a competitive, stable business climate, Alaska will grow its way out of the deficit. Elections are about trust. With your help, together we can restore trust in our government and ensure everyday Alaskans have a voice in the big decisions ahead. Mike Dunleavy is a candidate for governor of Alaska. A public school teacher, principal and superintendent for more than two decades in Koyuk, Kotzebue and the Mat-Su Valley, Dunleavy served on the Mat-Su Borough School Board and in the Alaska State Senate. Editor’s note: The Alaska Journal of Commerce will publish up to two op-ed submissions from the candidates for governor between now and our Oct. 21 edition.

OPINION: Walker-Mallott drags Kavanaugh into Alaska’s problems

The fact that Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott need to pull votes from Mark Begich, the other Democrat in the race for governor, is no secret and it was therefore no surprise to see a press release out of Walker’s office on Sept. 20 announcing their opposition to Brett Kavanaugh to join the U.S. Supreme Court. After declaring Kavanaugh “does not demonstrate a commitment to legal precedent that protects working families,” whatever that means, and stopping just short of asserting he favors repealing the Alaska Statehood Act, the so-called “independent/Alaska first/unity” ticket went lower than a North Slope drill bit: “Finally, we believe a thorough review of past allegations against Mr. Kavanaugh is needed before a confirmation vote takes place. Violence against women in Alaska is an epidemic. We do not condone placing someone into one of our nation’s highest positions of power while so many key questions remain unanswered.” Opposition to Kavanaugh — even on nothing more than the pure partisan basis we saw before his name was released or uncorroborated allegations from his high school years were dropped on him like slime at a Nickelodeon awards show at the last possible moment — is one thing. It is quite another to conflate the unsubstantiated charges against Kavanaugh with the documented, ongoing and as-yet unchecked problem of violence against women in Alaska that Walker and Mallott describe as an epidemic. Walker and Mallott refer to this epidemic as if they are mere bystanders to the problem and not the most powerful person in Alaska and one of the most respected Native leaders in the state, respectively. What, exactly, have Walker and Mallott done to address or even reduce violence against Alaska women and children? And what, exactly, does Kavanaugh have to do with any of it? Mallott, for his part, appears more interested in climate change than actually changing the climate for women and girls in rural Alaska. After nearly four years of their administration, virtually nothing has improved, they’re offering no hope that it will, and yet they are using an unsolved issue they have the ability to do something about as the basis to attack Kavanaugh. Oh, but they just want the questions answered, as if that matters after they’d already come up with a series of bizarre allegations about his legal views that aren’t backed up by either Sen. Lisa Murkowski or Sen. Dan Sullivan, whose wife is an Alaska Native. How difficult would it be for anyone who went to high school with Walker or Mallott to make up a similar charge against them as has been leveled against Kavanaugh? How would they, their wives and their children feel if suddenly they had to defend themselves against a horrific allegation with no date, place or even a year for which to present a defense? How would they react to calls to drop out of the race for governor, or to suspend their campaign until a thorough investigation of a charge with no possible defense other than a denial was available? We are going down a dangerous road here where a person in the public eye for decades can be destroyed over such an unprovable accusation after being the subject of not one, not two, but six FBI background checks over the years that, yes, include interviews with high school and college acquaintances. If the GOP falls for this scam they can kiss the Senate goodbye, or if they manage to hold it thanks to the difficult battleground facing Democrats in 10 states won by President Donald Trump, they can expect nothing short of a repeat of this character assassination against Kavanaugh on any other nominee. Just imagine what’s going to happen if Trump has an opportunity to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg. This will look like the good ol’ days. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: Alaskans should be skeptical of anti-ANWR economic arguments

The Trump administration and Alaska officials are moving quickly to open up exploration for oil and natural gas on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. New seismic testing on ANWR’s coastal plain is being planned for this coming winter, with an environmental impact statement, or EIS, being completed as soon as the spring of 2019 and federal lease sales planned for 2020. The accelerated review process has revived much of the negative messaging campaigns by national environmental groups. But companies invest to make money and as long as there is interest in ANWR’s vast resources, Alaskans should be wary of inaccurate and negative economic arguments regarding the workings of global oil markets or their influence on drilling the coastal plain. Opponents of opening the small portion of ANWR set aside for its rich oil potential claim there is “much uncertainty” surrounding the size and value of the region’s resources. They also argue that the “shale gale” that is breaking production records in the Lower 48 spells trouble for investment in ANWR. Neither assertion is true. There are two benchmarks that determine the global price for the kind of high-quality light sweet crude oil that Alaska has in abundance. The first is the U.S.-based West Texas Intermediate, or WTI, in Cushing, Okla., which determines the price of the majority of the oil being produced in the western United States. The other is Europe’s benchmark price known as Brent.   All of the crude oil coming out of the Middle East is priced to Brent, which carries with it a “risk-premium” due to the underlying threat of wars and regional conflicts destroying oil fields and export infrastructure. Oil traveling through Alaska’s Trans-Alaska Pipeline System is also priced to the “rest-of-the-world,” meaning Alaska oil carries the Middle East risk premium even though it’s on the opposite side of the world. The price “spread” between Brent and WTI is large, making Alaska oil delivered to California often worth $5 and sometimes nearly $10 more than Lower 48 crude prices. This price dynamic didn’t always exist, but after Congress lifted the domestic oil export ban in late 2015 and started sending cheap barrels through the Gulf of Mexico, the Brent-WTI spread became a semi-permanent fixture in the market. This means that as long as the Middle East is in turmoil, Alaska crude will earn a higher price than Lower 48 crude oil of similar quality benchmarked to WTI. The existence of this price differential is one of the main attractions to drillers currently working on the North Slope. Another criticism that is often made is that the amount of recoverable oil expected to be contained in ANWR – roughly 10 billion barrels, according to the federal government’s estimates – represents only a tiny percentage of America’s daily consumption and wouldn’t come online for a decade or more. But even small amounts of new oil can make a big difference in oil prices when the supply market is tight. In 1995, then-President Bill Clinton vetoed legislation approved by Congress to open ANWR. One of the arguments during that period of low oil prices was that because North Slope oil would take more than a decade to reach the market that it was somehow unneeded. Fast forward a decade to July 2008 and the price of oil spiked to more than $140 a barrel. Famed Oklahoma oilman T. Boone Pickens said that the world was short about 1 million barrels a day of crude oil. That is exactly the amount of oil that would have been produced from ANWR if President Clinton had done what President Trump did 22 years later and signed ANWR language. Alas, record-high oil prices played a major role in initiating the 2008 financial crisis, the effects of which are still lingering today. It’s true that any production from ANWR is probably at least a decade off and perhaps longer, but current under-investment is the chief risk of future price spikes, according to the World Bank and OPEC. Economists see oil markets as roughly 25-year investment cycles that involve price spikes at the beginning of a cycle followed by heavy investment, a price equilibrium in the middle, and then a general price decline until under-investment eliminates spare capacity and a new price spike occurs. If the median estimates made by the U.S. Geological Service are true, ANWR’s 10 billion barrels of producible could create peak output somewhere around 1 million to 1.2 million per day by the mid-2030s. That production estimate is based on today’s oil prices; even more of ANWR’s oil would be economically viable at higher prices. It’s very possible that if the last price spike occurred in 2004-2008 timeframe, the next price spike could occur in the early 2030s, just in time for ANWR. A lot can transpire in a decade. We shouldn’t base our decisions regarding ANWR on the oil price we have today, but on the price and marketplace we can expect tomorrow.  Bill Murray was born and raised in Alaska. He currently works on energy and tax policy at R Street, a Washington, D.C., think-tank. He previously worked as an energy markets reporter for Bloomberg News.

COMMENTARY: Gasline deals put Alaska on cusp of opportunity

Last Monday was a big deal. Fellow Alaskans, I want to share in collective celebration the significant milestone Alaska reached last Monday, Sept. 10. The Alaska LNG Project is now a compelling step closer to bringing Alaska’s vast stranded natural gas to market. We are closer to significantly lowering the cost of energy for thousands of Alaskans; closer to creating 12,000 direct construction jobs that will put Alaskans to work building the gas pipeline project; and closer to providing thousands of indirect support jobs. There are two components now in place that advance the Alaska LNG project. First, we are building momentum for ExxonMobil to sell its share of natural gas, from both its Point Thomson and Prudhoe Bay fields. ExxonMobil and the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. signed a binding agreement establishing terms for the price and volume of gas they’ll commit to the Alaska LNG project. BP Alaska signed a similar agreement earlier this summer. Second, we signed a letter of understanding with ExxonMobil and BP to re-align the 2012 Point Thomson settlement agreement, pausing deadlines in order to calibrate the pace and scope of work of Point Thomson’s development to match the Alaska LNG project. Why is this significant? ExxonMobil operates the Point Thomson field, controlling a 62 percent share of its natural gas. They also control a 36 percent share of nearby Prudhoe Bay. This makes ExxonMobil the largest holder of discovered gas resources on Alaska’s North Slope. By adjusting the deadlines for production at the Point Thomson field to match the Alaska LNG project, combined with ExxonMobil’s commitment to sell its gas to Alaska, we have an economic win-win. Monday’s events have enhanced significance because they turn Point Thomson into an oil producing field. As it stands, Point Thomson is one of the largest stranded gas fields in the world. It is also highly pressurized, with at least three times the pressure of Prudhoe Bay. This pressure poses a massive engineering challenge because when drilling for oil, it is incredibly difficult to reinject the gas into the ground without losing vast amounts of it. When the gas is lost, the potential for profit is lost — for ExxonMobil, and for Alaska. The Alaska LNG project offers ExxonMobil an opportunity to sell the gas at Point Thomson, instead of reinjecting it into the ground, which in turn will liberate up to 70,000 barrels of oil every day. That’s a 15 percent boost in total barrels flowing through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline each day, creating revenue for our state. The bottom line: because of the Alaska LNG project, the gas at Point Thomson stops being an obstacle and becomes an asset. Access to Point Thomson makes oil and gas more competitive across the North Slope, creates revenue for Alaska from the harbored underground gas, and allows easier access to the oil trapped by high-pressured gas. To go a step further, Point Thomson is on the doorstep of ANWR. Building out the infrastructure necessary to bring the oil and gas to market from Point Thomson puts us in a better position for the future development of ANWR. This is great news for the Alaska LNG project, and great news for the state. For the first time in our history, a majority of the North Slope gas producers — BP Alaska and now, ExxonMobil — have agreed to terms for the sale of gas into the Alaska LNG project. This step is an important layer as we build the momentum for bringing Alaska’s stranded gas resources on the North Slope to Alaskans and the world market. This news comes less than a year after President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping witnessed the signing of the five-party Joint Development Agreement to monetize Alaska’s natural gas. Together, with Monday’s ExxonMobil agreement, the Alaska LNG project has made more progress, and established more project certainty than any previous effort, facilitating the final commercial and financial steps necessary for completing the project. I cannot impress upon you enough the opportunities the gas line project will bring to Alaskans. Tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, well-paying jobs, access to stable low-cost clean energy, a diversification of state revenue, the list goes on. These are changes that will affect Alaskans personally. My life changed forever when the first pipeline was built: I still remember the feeling of receiving my first construction paycheck back in 1970. But getting TAPS from plan to reality took creativity and courage — not to mention a healthy dose of resilience in the face of those who called it a pipe dream. But those are the same ingredients we’re working with today to move the Alaska LNG project forward. Stakeholders are moving into position, the economics are in our favor, and we have the drive and focus to make this project happen. Alaska is on the cusp of opportunity. I could not be more excited. Editor’s note: The Alaska Journal of Commerce will publish up to two op-ed submissions from the candidates for governor between now and our Oct. 21 edition. Although this submission came from Gov. Walker’s office and not the campaign it will count as one of his two.

COMMENTARY: Restore the dividends, end the recession

The people we elect will either manage the state’s assets wisely or continue profligate spending, wasting our resources. Alaskans bear the highest unemployment rate, 7.3 percent, in the United States. We are in the third year of a self-inflicted recession. We’re missing the national Trump recovery because we have a governor and Legislature without a plan for a successful economy. They don’t know how to get us out of this recession. I do. As a banker and student of economics for decades, I understand consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of a state’s economy. The governor and Legislature cut dividends in half for the last three years. We had the money. The funds didn’t go to government services. They should have gone to the private sector, creating jobs throughout Alaska. The Permanent Fund Dividend program is a conservative, return on investment enterprise, uniquely Alaskan. We thought we protected the Fund and the dividends in the Constitution by passage of the amendment setting aside 25 percent of royalty income plus the earnings of the Fund. But, the Legislature arbitrarily overrode the statutory dividend and cut another $1,050 per Alaskan, for the third year. That cost our economy another 2,000 jobs. Dividends are only paid on collected earnings held in the Earnings Reserve. We have nearly $19 billion in the Reserve including $2.7 billion set aside to pay lowered dividends and general fund expenses for this year. The Constitutional Budget Reserve has another $2.3 billion in spare change. Cuts to the dividends weren’t used for operating expenses of government. They cut the heart out of small business. Alaskans’ personal economies suffered. I read financial statements and I’m horrified by what I read. In fiscal years 2013 and 2014, the Legislature gave $376 million to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., an unbuildable pipedream. What a waste. Consolidating agencies should be a key part of Alaska’s money saving strategy. Alaska Housing Finance Corp. and the Alaska Industrial Development Corporation, could free their combined net worth (not used for mission), of $2.8 billion dollars. Gov. Bill Walker awarded a study to Boston Consulting Group for over $800,000 to study consolidation. Then buried it. That further demonstrates that costs are out of control, even under two different governors and many different legislators. The duplicity of most legislators and the governor is astounding. They tell you that Alaska had a 2017 budget deficit of $2.4 billion dollars. If you read the fiscal year 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, you will find that Alaska had a $3.9 billion surplus. That’s like having a million in your savings account earning $100,000 while your checking account is overdrawn. Count only checking, you have a deficit. Count all the money, you have a surplus. Our Fund grew by $6.5 billion in fiscal year 2017 and by about $5 billion in the fiscal year 2018 just ended. Our surplus will be even greater. Our oil income will be up almost $1 billion in fiscal year 2019 due to the rise in price and 30,000 barrels per day in new production through ConocoPhillips at Greater Mooses Tooth-1 and 12,000 barrels per day from Hilcorp at Moose Pad in the Milne Point unit. Earnings of the Permanent Fund and our recovering economy can and should fund both full dividends and protect education and public safety. Dividends are the private sector way to capitalize hundreds of small businesses. We need to implement a vision that grows the Alaskan economy. It was my honor to chair the statewide campaigns that elected or reelected Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Donald Trump. I also ran the campaign in 1999, Alaskans Just Say No, which stopped the last raid of the Alaska Permanent Fund. We won that campaign 83 percent to 17 percent. The public understood the raid and said no. If your legislator told you we had a $2.4 billion deficit, ask about the $6.55 billion in earnings of the Permanent Fund in 2017 that they were not counting in order to concoct the deficit. That’s how they’re cooking the books. Some Legislators just want more money. They want to increase oil and mining taxes. And they want a personal income tax. We have the earnings to manage our resources wisely, within a spending cap. Dividend cuts cost our economy consumer spending of $4,300 per person in the last three years, devastating our private economy. We can end Alaska’s recession with restitution of the 2016 and 2017 cuts and full payment of the 2018 amount statutorily required. Economists agree. Legislative inaction just cost us another 2,000 jobs. Join me in demanding a special session, called by the Legislature prior to the General Election, to correct their unjustified and injurious cuts to our dividends. The money is in the bank today. The public has a right to know which candidate is your Permanent Fund Defender or Permanent Fund Spender. Find out and vote accordingly. ^ Jim Crawford is the former president of the nonprofit Permanent Fund Defenders. He also served Governor Hammond as a member of the Investment Advisory Committee which formed the investment and corporate strategy of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. in 1975. He is a candidate for Senate District I (Spenard and Midtown, U-Med District in Anchorage)

OPINION: Following the 'Outside' money backing Stand for Salmon

The backers of the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative well understand the power of pitting Alaskans against quote-unquote Outsiders. The phrase “foreign mining corporations” is used no fewer than six times on the “Get the Facts” page on their website. One particularly strident sentence reads: “In order to protect our Alaskan way of life, we need to support this initiative and not buy what the dishonest foreign mining corporations have to sell.” Stand for Salmon Campaign Director Ryan Schryver used the occasion of a minor fine against the measure’s opponents to accuse them of trying to fool voters by not adding the words “Vote No on One” to their organization’s Stand for Alaska name promptly enough after the initiative was certified in March. “They have to create distrust and confusion to be successful,” he told the Anchorage Daily News. That is a particularly rich charge for an organization that created the ultimate bumper sticker slogan to promote its ballot measure. While the Stand for Salmon proponents attempt to paint the opposition as foreign interlopers into Alaska’s affairs, they are hardly being transparent when it comes to the source of their funding. The top contributors include the Alaska Conservation Foundation, the Alaska Center, Cook Inletkeeper, the Wild Salmon Center and Salmon State. The initiative itself was crafted by environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska, which is well known for its legal activism against resource development in the state. According to campaign disclosures, about $730,000 of the $1.1 million in reported contributions to the effort are classified as non-monetary, with the Alaska Center topping the list at $357,000 followed by the Washington, D.C.-based New Venture Fund that employs Schryver at $227,000. Cook Inletkeeper is next at about $83,000 in non-monetary contributions to the effort. If money from outside the state is dirty, then all these groups with “Alaska” in their names hardly have clean hands. Trustees for Alaska lists 14 foundations as its top donors in its 2017 annual report, with only one having any staff based here and that one, the Leighty Foundation, was founded by a family from Waterloo, Iowa, but reported a Juneau address in its most recent IRS Form 990. The 14 most recent 990s for those groups show about $339,000 in donations to Trustees for Alaska. The Venn diagram of Trustees for Alaska foundation donors overlaps nearly perfectly with those to the groups backing the Stand for Salmon initiative. The Alaska Center received $255,000 in donations from the same foundations that back Trustees for Alaska in the most recent year according to the Form 990s. It has also received another $245,000 from the New Venture Fund for a total of a half-million dollars in “Outside” money in the most recent year forms are available. Cook Inletkeeper received about $260,000 in donations from the New Venture Fund and the Trustees for Alaska foundation donors. These 14 foundations collectively hold about $463 million in assets according to their most recent 990s, with the New Venture Fund adding another $230 million for nearly $700 million total. What these groups have in common is their fight against resource development of all kinds in addition to the money that insulates them from the consequences of the policies they are trying to implement around the country. All the groups with Alaskan addresses are a handy vehicle to carry through money in order to advance the goals of these non-Alaska foundations, with the added benefit of those organizations not having to disclose how they are contributing nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in “non-monetary” resources to an effort that will undoubtedly cost the state jobs if it passes. As just one example, the 444 S Foundation based in Bellevue, Wash., donated $115,000 to the Alaska Center and $60,000 to Trustees for Alaska in 2016, with another $100,000 to the New Venture Fund. What is the 444 S Foundation? Besides being endorsed by the Sierra Club, Code Pink and the socialist Working Families Organization, its executive director is Fred Munson, who is also a member of the Arctic Defense Fund advisory council, which dispersed funds to support the “kayaktivists” who blockaded Shell in Seattle in 2015 and later hung from bridges in Portland trying to prevent its outer continental shelf drilling. Arctic Defense Fund was created by the Rockefeller Foundation’s Sustainable Market Solutions, whose principal officer is Jay Halfon, a professional litigator for Earthworks and well known “frackivist” leading the fights against the U.S. energy boom in natural gas. The point is not that there is anything wrong with these foundations contributing their money to the causes they support. And to be clear, their opponents have vastly outraised Stand for Salmon by a 9-1 margin so far. Rather, it is disingenuous to the nth degree for the supporters of Stand for Salmon to attack the companies that are being completely open about their donations while theirs come from groups in Boston, New York, DC and San Francisco who belong to the “keep it in the ground” movement that are rightly distrusted by those who live and work here. Admitting they take money from outside foundations as a means to even up the odds, even slightly, would at least be an honest argument. But that’s probably too much to expect when it comes to politics. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: Truckers urge ‘no’ vote on Ballot Measure 1

If you eat anything, build anything, or purchase anything in Alaska, chances are it came on a truck. In fact, 94 percent of all Alaska communities rely on trucks to move critical goods. It’s hard to overstate how important the trucking industry is to Alaska. Unlike many employed Alaskans, we truckers don’t work in an office — we work on the road. The highways are our workplaces, and sometimes they even feel like home. We don’t mind, because we chose this line of work, and it is immensely satisfying to literally keep Alaska moving. It is this love of the job that compels the Alaska Trucking Association to speak out against Ballot Measure 1. It may seem odd for a trucking group to oppose a ballot initiative that supposedly focuses on fish habitat, but the facts of the matter make Ballot Measure 1 too dangerous for us to ignore. One in 19 Alaska jobs is tied to the trucking industry. That’s a lot of truckers, and a lot of trucking families making their living by moving goods. Our concern with Ballot Measure 1 is that it will unnecessarily apply the brakes to our economy, leading to fewer jobs of all kinds, but especially in the trucking industry. This is because the ballot measure places enormous burdens on project developers, even for infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, and culverts. Truckers drive a lot of roads in Alaska, moving more than 17 million tons of goods every day and traversing roads in winter conditions. We care about our highways and byways being maintained safely, efficiently and predictably. In July, the Alaska Department of Transportation stated that Ballot Measure 1 will lead to road construction delays, possibly making them not only more expensive to build, but less safe. While testifying in front of the legislature, a representative from the DOT said, “the roads, the bridges, everything that we build, are designed to maintain safety for the traveling public. And so there’s some concern that this (ballot initiative) may trump some of those safety concerns.” The road is our workplace. The road is our home. Workplace safety is our number one priority. For those of us who work on the state’s roads, that kind of safety risk in just flat out unacceptable. Truckers also provide revenue to government. In 2016, truckers paid more than $53 million in state and federal taxes. If Ballot Measure 1 were to pass, we will start to see our economy grind along in low gear, resulting in less need for trucking. If we drive less, we make less revenue and pay less in taxes, a total lose-lose for government and us. More than anything, we are proud Alaskans. We get plenty of “windshield time” to see firsthand the beauty of our unique state; we fish on our days off; and we raise our families here. We care about the future of this state, the future of our jobs and, most importantly, the safety of our drivers. On November 6th, please join Alaska’s truckers in voting no on Ballot Measure 1 to protect our jobs and our safety. ^ Aves Thompson is the Executive Director of the Alaska Trucking Association, a 200-member company trade association whose purpose is to foster and promote the trucking industry in Alaska.

COMMENTARY: Fixing the Clean Power Plan is a sensible first step

Washington loves controversy. And critics are undoubtedly clucking right now about the Trump administration’s plan to replace the Clean Power Plan, or CPP, with a modified effort. But the administration deserves credit for updating the plan, rather than scrapping it entirely. For starters, the CPP envisioned by President Obama represented a massive overreach of the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act. Instead of addressing individual power plants, the Obama administration simply mandated wholesale changes to large swaths of America’s power grid. The Supreme Court found this problematic, though, and issued an unprecedented stay of the rule while a lower court was reviewing it. It wasn’t just the EPA’s intrusion into the way individual states generate electricity, however. There was also the incredibly high price tag. According to a study by Energy Ventures Analysis, the CPP would have forced the closure of enough generating capacity to power 24 million homes. This would have cost consumers an estimated $214 billion in additional electricity costs between 2022 and 2030, plus $64 billion for replacement infrastructure. Such a massive expense prompted 27 states to challenge the rule, and a bipartisan majority of Congress to formally state their disapproval. What the Trump administration is now attempting with its Affordable Clean Energy, or ACE, rule is to focus on improvements for existing plants. This is a far more lawful approach, and it means the EPA will respect both the boundaries established under the Clean Air Act and the ability of individual states to securely generate electricity. Essentially, the new rule means the administration wants to innovate and upgrade existing facilities, rather than scrap them. There’s precedent for this, since extensive investments in environmental controls for America’s coal fleet have already reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matter by 92 percent per kilowatt-hour since 1970. Utilities have invested more than $127 billion in emissions technologies through 2018, and are also expected to spend an additional $5 billion through 2020. The CPP was a blunt hammer, and it aimed to rapidly eliminate coal-fired power in the U.S. But shutting down key parts of the nation’s power grid could have reduced the reliability and affordability of America’s electricity mix. A recent EVA study found that replacing just three of the coal plants facing premature retirement could cost consumers 15 times more than providing support to keep them operating. Coal currently generates 32 percent of the nation’s power supply. It’s part of a long-term effort to maintain a balanced energy mix. The CPP overreached, in that it would have imposed massive costs on U.S. consumers. But it offered little gain in return. A fully implemented CPP would have yielded only a theoretical 0.018 degrees Celsius reduction in global temperatures by 2100, and reduced power plants CO2 emissions by less than 1 percent. Yes, the Trump administration has waded into a complex and controversial issue. But they’ve taken a prudent approach to help states generate electricity safely, reliably, and affordably. More can be done to scale up up wind and solar power, for example. But that should be encouraged alongside advances in coal technologies that can further improve safety while also providing reliable electricity every day. ^ Terry M. Jarrett is an energy attorney and consultant who has served on both the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Missouri Public Service Commission.

OPINION: Getting to the bottom of shady votes in District 15

Among the many subjects that regularly earn Republicans a mocking from Democrats and their media sympathizers, perhaps none rank as highly as claims about election fraud. Attempts to secure the voting franchise through requirements for ID are universally decried as racist and based on bogeyman conspiracy theories about the dead or otherwise ineligible casting ballots. In House District 15, where Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux now holds an insurmountable lead of 113 votes over her inert challenger Aaron Weaver, a case is now emerging that voter fraud indeed took place. Seven dead people requested absentee ballots from beyond the grave. At least two others confirmed ballots returned in their names were not cast by them. A total of 26 absentee ballots — all cast for LeDoux — are now under investigation by the Division of Elections and the Criminal Division of the Department of Law. Fewer than 600 ballots were cast on Aug. 21 during the GOP primary election, with Weaver waking up to a three-vote edge, 294-291, after he went to bed without even bothering to follow the results as they began posting around 9:15 p.m. LeDoux crushed Weaver in the absentee count conducted Aug. 28 and now leads 452-339, but a strong whiff of corruption hovers over her apparent victory thanks to what appears to be a systematic effort to game the system. At the center of it is LeDoux’s Hmong outreach contractor Charlie Chang of Fresno, Calif., who she’s enlisted in each of her House District 15 competitions and was paid nearly $12,000 in July for get-out-the-vote efforts in the Muldoon neighborhood of Anchorage. Three components are central to any type of legal investigation: motive, means and opportunity. Every one of those elements fits LeDoux and Chang in House District 15. In her own statement denying any wrongdoing issued Aug. 28, LeDoux hit on motive: “District 15 is a very low turnout district.” A low turnout district means every vote is crucial, as was evident on election night with a margin of just three votes between LeDoux and Weaver. The means and opportunity fit as well as a substantial number of the ballots in question are linked to a narrow range of addresses in Muldoon where Chang’s outreach is focused. Finally, in the mother of all coincidences, every ballot under review was cast for LeDoux. Whether LeDoux faces any legal jeopardy seems unlikely absent a claim by Chang he was instructed to do anything improper, and the investigation is in too early of a stage to speculate on whether he did anything wrong, either. But there is another element of investigations — “Cui bono,” Latin for “who benefits?” — that clearly does not favor LeDoux. Something fishy went down in Muldoon, and the investigation must proceed expeditiously with the general election coming up Nov. 6 and the state Republican Party now deciding to attempt an actual effort to defeat LeDoux after basically sitting out the primary against one of its biggest and easily best-funded targets. The broader issue at play, though, is the routinely overlooked aspect of Democrat fights against election integrity. Claims that Republicans are trying to disenfranchise minority voters ignore the very real competing impact of voter fraud: the disenfranchisement of those whose legal votes are canceled out by illegal ones. It is no less an act of disenfranchisement to deny the vote to some by allowing the ineligible or deceased to vote — through negligence or corruption — as it is to deny access to the voting booth in the first place. The Division of Elections deserves credit for flagging these irregularities, which officials obviously believe bear enough signs of intentional fraud to warrant a criminal investigation. LeDoux may rightly believe there is no evidence that will implicate her in whatever events took place to result in every questioned ballot being a vote for her. She shouldn’t be as confident that this dark cloud won’t follow her into November. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

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