Opinion

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]

COMMENTARY: Hatcheries a vital source of abundance for Alaskans

Few things define Alaskans more than our love of salmon. Not surprisingly, salmon allocation decisions and fluctuations in resource abundance often spur bitter political battles between user groups. A robust public process rooted in best available science has long been the arbiter of such disputes. As an Alaskan born and raised on the Kenai, and in my current role as Mayor of Cordova, it is with deep consternation that I followed a recent Board of Fisheries evaluation of an emergency petition seeking to restrict hatchery salmon releases in Prince William Sound. The Board narrowly voted to reject the petition averting a dangerous departure from best available science, transparency, and public process; the principles that are the bedrock of our management system. The inconsistency of the Cook Inlet salmon runs over the past few years have now arbitrarily pointed to hatchery releases as the culprit. It is understandable that as demand for Cook Inlet salmon expands and catch rates go down, fishermen from all user groups are looking for answers. Unfortunately, we have little control over the likely cause cited by scientists: the recent ocean conditions wreaking havoc on the Gulf of Alaska’s ecosystem. Referred to as “the blob,” the mass of warm water that formed in 2013 and lingered through 2016 stripped the typically bountiful Gulf of Alaska of vital nutrients, creating cascading effects throughout the food chain. Scientists believe it to be responsible for mass die-offs of juvenile cod and salmon—impacts that are clearly visible in this year’s salmon runs. It is important to recognize the resounding success of the hatchery management program. Salmon hatcheries have been a key component of our state’s commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries since the 1970s. Alaska’s hatchery program provides immense economic and social benefit to the entire state, particularly coastal communities like Cordova. The enhanced commercial harvest leads to the creation of processing jobs, fisheries tax revenue, economic investment, and state general fund revenues. An often-overlooked fact is that hatcheries create significant sport fishing opportunities in Prince William Sound and statewide, which increases the summer tourism industry. These benefits are essential to our coastal communities as well as the state, particularly in times of decreasing state budget resources. It is also important that stakeholders remain engaged in the public process and resource management decisions. However, it is also important for Alaskans to remember that our fisheries have remained sustainable because of a commitment on behalf of managers and users who rely on the best available science and data to make informed decisions. Making knee-jerk decisions in response to fluctuations in salmon runs year by year will not serve Alaskans well, particularly when the execution of said decisions could reduce future run potential. The established public process and science-based management in Alaska will keep us moving down the healthy path of promoting and protecting sustainability, feeding Alaskans, feeding the world, and providing wild salmon to all Alaskans for generations to come. Clay Koplin, Mayor of Cordova, is a lifelong Alaskan who grew up on the Kenai River where he and his family participated in sports fisheries and founded, as a family, the largest lure manufacturing business in the state. He and his family have subsistence fished for salmon and shellfish, and participated in the first Kenai River personal use dipnet fishery. Clay has witnessed the contributions of salmon hatcheries and releases developed on the Kasilof River, Halibut Cove, Ship Creek and others to enhance opportunities for sportfishing and all user groups.

COMMENTARY: PFD should be enshrined in Constitution for all Alaskans

My roots in Alaska go deep. I’ve had incredible opportunities here. At 93, my greatest hope is that my children and future Alaskans continue thriving here in a land of opportunity. When I arrived in Alaska after WWII I was glad to be alive. I had served over two years with a naval construction battalion on Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands. Malaria and other jungle diseases wracked by body. I was a wreck in some ways. But Alaska provided. Alaska healed me. I met the love of my life here and raised a family in Halibut Cove. Alaska provided abundant fish and spectacular land and seascapes that made me whole. The people of Alaska were hard working, thrifty, and committed to building a better future for everyone – my kind of people. We worked following the war to build a bright and inclusive future. Statehood was the goal. Control of our destiny was the value we cherished. We achieved statehood by working together, across party lines, over geographical boundaries and in spite of personal beliefs. It had to be done and it was. The great promise of statehood ensured Alaskans would obtain the land grants and control of our inshore fisheries we needed to thrive. We selected wisely, including the incomparable lands along the Sagavanirktok River near Prudhoe Bay that yielded a stupendous amount of oil revenue. When the oil revenue started rolling into our state coffers, Alaska’s great promise appeared to have been fulfilled. But the initial bonanza of oil revenues was spent like a sailor hitting port after a long voyage. Some of us worried about spending every cent of our non-renewable oil revenue without saving for the future. Visionary legislators like Oral Freeman and Hugh Malone led the call to save a slice of our oil revenue. They were assisted by my pool playing buddy, Governor Jay Hammond, who grew up poor in upstate New York and knew the value of savings. Working together with Alaskans from across the state, we established the Permanent Fund. We only saved only 25% of the oil revenues. The rest was available and spent by the politicians. Some of it even benefited the people. Jay Hammond convinced me and many other Alaskans the only way to fully protect our Permanent Fund was to make sure each and every Alaskan had a stake in the fund. Hammond believed as long as every Alaskan obtained an uncapped dividend each year, the voters would protect the Permanent forever. Which brings me to the point I want every Alaskan to consider. The Permanent Fund, now at $65 billion, has benefited all Alaskans for decades. The current law requiring the Permanent Fund Corporation to inflation proof the fund and then pay the PFD according to a legal formula, has been a boon for every Alaskan and the private sector. Alaskans are treated equally according to this distribution law. Whether you live in Bethel or Ketchikan, Anchorage or Fairbanks, the dividend is your legal right. And why not? The dividend came from our Permanent Fund savings account – a fund established in our Constitution using the oil wealth owned in common by all Alaskans. Politicians and special interests have tried to hijack your dividend since it was established. For the first time in history they’ve succeeded. In the last three years our politicians failed to address revenue shortfalls in a responsible way. Instead, they stole thousands of dollars from you by shorting your dividend so they can spend your money on projects and activities they believe are more important than your interests. As a group, our elected officials are addicted to spending. They’ve spent down most of the state’s savings account. Now they are ignoring the law and grabbing your PFD. Eventually they’ll go after the Permanent Fund if we let them. All of us who helped establish the Permanent Fund did so to pass along a little of the oil wealth to future generations. The PFD isn’t a welfare program or a rainy-day account for government. The PFD was established so every Alaskan would share equally in the Permanent Fund earnings and to provide a firewall between the grasping hands of politicians and special interests trying to rip off our communal savings. I came back from the war in the Pacific sure in the knowledge that Alaska was a great place to live and full of opportunity. The sea and the land provided. Life was good because we all worked hard, built a better future, and saved a portion of the bounty we inherited. Letting the politicians raid our savings and cut Alaskans’ PFD is political robbery. Anything short of full constitutional protection of the PFD is unjust and robs every Alaskan of their equal share of our savings. We must defend our Permanent Fund. To do that, the original PFD law must be protected in our Alaska Constitution. Clem Tillion is a former nine-term legislator and retired commercial fisherman residing in Halibut Cove near Homer. He is the president of the Permanent Fund Defenders (www.pfdak.com) and helped design the Permanent Fund with Gov. Jay Hammond and others.

OPINION: Thank you for not voting

Forgive two movie references between the headline and this lede, but Everything is Awesome if turnout is any indication about how Alaskans are feeling about the state of the state. Recession, unemployment, negative migration, addiction, crime and the Permanent Fund Dividend have dominated the news and internet comments for the past three years, yet fewer than 1 in 5 Alaskans cast ballots in the Aug. 21 primary. There are plenty of good reasons for that. The Democrat race for governor was essentially uncontested, there was no U.S. Senate race or ballot initiatives, the incumbent Gov. Bill Walker wasn’t on the ballot and as usual many House and Senate races had fewer choices than an election in North Korea. As expected, former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy crushed latecomer and former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell in the GOP primary by a 2-1 margin. Treadwell, who vastly overestimated his name recognition and ability to parachute into the race at the filing deadline as a last-ditch alternative to Dunleavy for the party establishment, sang a song of sour grapes as the results came in. "We have to bring the Republican Party together because right now the ideas that we brought forward on trying to save jobs, build jobs in this economy, having experienced people run this thing, we did not get very much attention,” Treadwell told the Anchorage Daily News. “The biggest issue was who was tallest." Unconstrained by holding any elected office, Treadwell had more than a year to run, make his case and raise money to earn the GOP nod — there was even a gap where Dunleavy suspended his campaign for health reasons — but he apparently believed he could stroll to a win in a couple months if only he’d gotten more attention. Note to Mead: You can’t beat something with nothing, and looking for scapegoats anywhere but the mirror is a bigger waste of time than your short-lived campaign. But back to the turnout, which while largely explainable was baffling in a few notable contested races. In Eagle River, the race to fill former Sen. Anna MacKinnon’s seat between two well-known politicians was a blowout win for Rep. Lora Reinbold over Rep. Dan Saddler by nearly 800 votes but fewer than 5,000 people voted in a district of nearly 29,000 registered voters. In House District 25, House Minority Leader Charisse Millett was sacked by newcomer Josh Revak with neither accumulating even 1,000 votes. With turnout of just 11 percent, Revak had a lead of 916 to 685 in a district with more than 14,000 voters. But wait, it gets worse. Over in Muldoon, House Rules Chair and the Legislature’s most prolific fundraiser Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux couldn’t even turn out 300 people to vote for her. She ended the night trailing by 3 votes, 294-291, and may yet pull out a win, but it is still a pathetic showing for the would-be kingmaker. LeDoux and Millett, who both voted for fully funding the PFD this past session, may well go down to defeat, and even in races where candidates made it an issue the results were decidedly mixed. Paying a “full” dividend is just not an animating issue for the majority of Alaskans, despite what Dunleavy’s win might indicate. The issue did appear to bite a member of the Senate Majority leadership with Peter Miccicche trailing by 12 votes in his race on the Kenai Peninsula. But like Millett, his loss, if it holds, can just as easily be blamed on complacency as a reduced PFD that is still bigger than all but seven that have been paid in state history. Whether the internet-amplified anger over the PFD translates to a Legislature that will send a formula-funded dividend to the governor’s desk remains to be seen, but if Tuesday was any indication the issue did not drive turnout in any race. The math of a three-way contest rather than the math of calculating the PFD still appears to be the most decisive factor heading into November. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: Alaskans need a champion of women on the court

Should Brett Kavanaugh be nominated to take a lifelong seat on the Supreme Court? The national debate on Roe vs. Wade presents an opportunity to step back and take stock: what is the status of women’s rights in America? Will this nominee strengthen democracy, improve equality and justice for all? As a strong Alaskan and female leader, we count on Sen. Lisa Murkowski to ask these questions as she weighs her decision. Consider two things you need to control your life: 1) financial independence, and 2) freedom to control your own body. Kavanaugh poses a threat to these critical rights. His non-committal stance on Roe alarms those concerned with the freedom to choose to bear children. This question is critical to a woman’s capacity to support herself and her children, a challenge that still places women at a disadvantage. To those who assert, “women control over half the nation’s wealth,” and are therefore financially secure, I ask, what does “control” mean? And which women? Sweeping language about women unilaterally having economic power equal to men distorts truth: women still face hurdles to equality. The median pay for women on the list of the highest-paid U.S. chief executives was  $15.7 million in 2014, $1.6 million less than for men. Have we broken through the glass ceiling? Only 11 of those 200 CEOs were women. Census data confirms that women earn $.80 cents on average for each $1 dollar that men do. Progress has been hard fought and slow paced, and remains predominantly enjoyed by white women. Across all major racial and ethnic groups, women earn less than men of the same group. Female leaders in corporate America earn compensation packages that rival their male peers. But how many women make it to the top? Women of color made up only 5% of executive or senior-level managers in 2015. In 2017, Hispanic women earned 62.1% what White men earned, and Black women earned 67.7% of White men. Given the Supreme Court’s role, Kavanaugh’s nomination has tremendous impact on the future of women. Let us thank the powers that be for ‘elastic’ Constitutional interpretations - for if it were not the job of the Court to interpret, rather than simply impose, women would lack legal access to any kind of equality today. Does it not say that, “all men are created equal”?  That’s not us, ladies. To many of us, the bottom line is this: if a woman cannot 1) earn enough to support herself and 2) control her reproductive rights, then she cannot be a full participant in democracy. Voting is powerful, but only one tool. The right to decide when and if to start a family represents a significant determinant in both financial and personal freedoms. Women with children often leave the workforce to do most of the unpaid labor of raising the next generation of citizens, a well-documented setback to lifelong earning trajectories. These women are raising the our future scientists, Supreme Court nominees, social workers and manual laborers. In other words, all of us. As a single woman under 30, I want what many “up and coming” women do; home ownership, a corner desk, and financial security for the family I will start someday. I’ll need the law’s support to do that. Sen. Murkowski holds a seat in the United States Congress, whose membership is only 20% female. She knows there are inequities; she has championed women before. Now we’re counting on her to do it again. Claire Pywell resides in Anchorage with her partner, Dave. She is a volunteer with several community organizations and an avid outdoors person.  

COMMENTARY: Ballot Measure 1 threatens TAPS operations and the environment

The Stand for Salmon movement promises “vital infrastructure will still move forward” in the event of its passage. In reality, the initiative becoming law would bring a standstill to actions that protect the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System today, while putting fish habitat around it in more jeopardy. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company operates TAPS, a vital piece of Alaska’s economic engine, and maintains its 800-mile route across more than 700 fish streams from the North Slope to Valdez. We are committed to operational excellence, long-term TAPS reliability, and the health of its surrounding environment. I know our personnel, almost all Alaskans, along with our Alaska-based industry partners, Tribal organizations, and state and federal agencies that regulate our work, share Ballot Measure 1’s supporters’ appreciation for Alaska’s special waterways and vibrant marine life. But that’s where common ground ends. Many states have lost salmon species or declared them endangered due to overfishing and blocked migration routes. Not so in Alaska, and certainly not along TAPS. We regularly clear, repair, and modify streams to maintain fish passage and prevent erosion. TAPS workers act to deliver system and environmental sustainability, not simply suppress infrastructure threats. After over 40 years of TAPS operations, our Environment, Right of Way and Baseline teams are experts in monitoring and inspecting hundreds of waterways and dozens more that connect to them along TAPS. Many hold master’s degrees in fisheries, marine biology, wildlife biology, environmental science and engineering. All take great pride in their role protecting the environment; if they don’t, they don’t work here. They know these waters, and the more than 30 fish species inhabiting them, from daily and annual surveillance and from constantly anticipating and responding to the forces of nature and Alaska’s often harsh and unpredictable weather. TAPS is already heavily regulated; we comply with requirements of more than 20 state and federal agencies. Since 2000, Alyeska has received more than 700 individual permits for routine maintenance activities, new installations, and projects along waterways to safeguard pipeline integrity and protect the environment. We hold 80 to 90 active annual permits for work in fish habitat areas. The fish habitat initiative puts at risk timely permitting and conduct of our actions. With rigid new agency review requirements and permitting criteria, and a wide-open appeals process, the initiative would complicate and delay inspection and certain maintenance activities, and create uncertainty about what is considered minor routine maintenance and grandfathered projects. Simple but important projects would face convoluted if not unpassable hurdles. And when we confront natural disasters, such as floods, fires and earthquakes, there’s no time to waste. Every spring, the Sagavanirktok River — better known as the Sag River — floods along the Dalton Highway and TAPS right of way for long stretches. Sometimes the flooding is annoying. Sometimes it’s troublesome. In spring 2015, it was disastrous. By spring’s arrival, ice buildup was 12 feet high in some places. Record-high temperatures led to swift snow melt and record river flow. Suddenly, the Sag flooded miles of the North Slope and endangered two of Alaska’s critical economic lifelines: TAPS and the Dalton Highway. TAPS personnel saw it coming. The Dalton was eventually closed, but because of very rapid preventative actions along waterways near TAPS, the pipeline and the fragile environment around it was spared catastrophic damage, and the pipeline stayed in operation. Over the weeks and months that followed, we conducted a massive cleanup, dozens of inspections, many repairs, and wide-ranging restoration of waterways and fish passages impacted by the flooding. Under this initiative even as amended, permits necessary to rapidly accomplish such critical work to protect TAPS would be more difficult to obtain, as would permits for spur dikes that redirected the Sag River’s main channel away from the Dalton Highway and the oil pipeline. TAPS, the Dalton Highway, fish streams and waterways could suffer devastating consequences. Many individuals, organizations, and local and state agencies representing diverse interests from all corners of Alaska have stepped forward to object to the risks surrounding the initiative. TAPS personnel have embodied Alaska true grit, pride and environmental stewardship from construction to today’s vision for the next 40 years of TAPS operations and the innovation it will take to achieve it. We plan to keep Alaska’s pipeline operating safely, while protecting Alaska’s environment, fish and wildlife. The initiative makes achieving that goal more difficult. If the fish habitat initiative becomes law, it will hinder and prevent Alyeska from obtaining permits needed to perform work crucial to TAPS’ safe and reliable operations in a timely way. We care deeply about Alaska’s salmon and environment; we are passionate about sustaining safe, reliable TAPS operations, and its daily contribution to the Alaska economy, long into the future. I ask you to vote No on Ballot Measure 1. Tom Barrett, a retired U.S. Coast Guard vice admiral and former deputy secretary of the Transportation Department, is president of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

COMMENTARY: Clarifying Endangered Species Act for modern conservation

A modern vision of conservation is one that uses federalism, public-private partnerships and market-based solutions to achieve sound stewardship. These approaches, combined with sensible regulations and the best available science, will achieve the greatest good in the longest term. Last month, the Trump administration took this approach to bringing our government’s implementation of the Endangered Species Act into the 21st century. We asked ourselves how we can enhance conservation of our most imperiled wildlife while delivering good government for our citizens. We found room for improvement in the administration of the act. When Congress created the Endangered Species Act, it built a tiered classification for our most at-risk wildlife, designing different protections for “endangered” and “threatened” species. The act was designed to give endangered species the most stringent protections while affording federal agencies the authority to tailor special rules for lower-risk, threatened species on a case-by-case basis. It may surprise most Americans, however, that the highest level of protection is often applied, regardless of the classification, through application of a “blanket rule.” The use of this rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service automatically elevates protections for threatened species to the same level as those given to endangered species. But automatically treating the threatened species as endangered places unnecessary regulatory burden on our citizens without additional benefit to the species. The blanket rule reflexively prohibits known habitat management practices, such as selective forest thinning and water management, that might ultimately benefit a threatened species. We need creative, incentive-based conservation, but that becomes impossible with the current blurring of the lines between the two distinctions. This muddle discourages collaborative conservation from the parties we most need to partner with us — states, Tribes and private landowners — ultimately harming species that can thrive with a more tailored approach. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency that also administers the act, understands this. NOAA has never employed a “blanket rule,” and we propose to follow this approach. The Endangered Species Act provides intensive care for the species with the greatest need in order to ensure they survive for future generations. Like with a hospital’s intensive care unit, the goal is not to keep patients there forever. The goal is recovery — to send the healthier patients home where they can continue to receive the lower level of care they still need. The criterion for admission to a hospital’s ICU is the same as it is for discharge: critical need. The same principle applies to the act, but over the years, the standards for down-listing (from endangered to threatened) and altogether delisting a species have been pushed higher than the standards for initially granting protection under the act. We are proposing to clarify that the standards for listing and delisting are identical. With limited resources, we cannot and should not keep recovered species on the list forever. We must return conservation management back to the capable hands of the states and focus our federal protections and resources on those species that need them most. These changes are just some in a series of proposals that will improve the administration of the Endangered Species Act, encouraging collaborative conservation and leveraging flexibility to incorporate innovation. We are also clarifying the meaning of certain terms that are in the act itself but not defined. For example, the law allows us to list species as threatened when they are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future, but it does not explain what “foreseeable future” means. We aim to provide the public and our federal agencies with a universal language that will increase regulatory certainty. In addition, we want to keep everyday Americans apprised of the impact the government’s work will have on them. We will continue to consider only the best scientific and commercial data in our listing determinations, as required by the act. But collecting data about the economic impacts of a species listing and presenting it to the public increase transparency — a hallmark of good government. This is the first step in a deliberative process. Rather than allowing special-interest groups to start and end the debate, we will give everyone — including the local voice and the rural voice — an opportunity to have their say. We have kicked off a 60-day public-comment period, after which we will evaluate the feedback and move forward, making adjustments where appropriate. Familiar faces have come out in opposition to the proposal, which is no surprise, though sadly, much of their response has been hyperbolic and unhelpful in promoting constructive discussion. But they, too, should submit their ideas, because the status quo is unacceptable for everyone — including the various species of flora and fauna that merit the act’s protection.

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