Sullivan survives hostile environment on The Rock

About the best thing you could say about Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan’s performance at the traditional Kodiak Chamber of Commerce Fisheries Debate is that he survived.

Sullivan faced a hostile crowd that applauded most of Democrat incumbent Sen. Mark Begich’s answers as well as rough questions from two of the media panelists Laine Welch and Margie Bauman (Journal fisheries reporter Molly Dischner was the third).

In one question, Welch referred to House Bill 77 advanced by the Department of Natural Resources while Sullivan was commissioner of the agency as the “Silencing Alaskans Act” and Bauman asked Sullivan about his brother’s wholesale business purchasing farmed salmon.

Sullivan — who answered Bauman by pointing out his brother buys Alaska seafood as well and comes to the state every summer to make purchases — wryly noted at one point that he was, “feeling the love.”

While the issue of fisheries is clearly not Sullivan’s area of expertise, he at least showed a consistency in his answers that science should guide resource development for all industries and did score points by pointing out that Begich has not been an effective member of the Senate when it comes to securing an exemption for small vessels from onerous EPA discharge regulations or aiding the community of King Cove in its quest to get an 11-mile road connection built to Cold Bay.

The reason the EPA exemption for vessel discharge has not been made permanent but instead simply had the deadline moved back repeatedly is that Begich’s boss, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, runs the body with an iron fist and hasn’t given Begich a vote on an amendment in more than five years.

Reid acts at the behest of the uncompromising groups who oppose Pebble and the road to King Cove equally despite the vast differences in their possible environmental impacts.

The national environmental groups Reid and by extension Begich are beholden to dislike the commercial fishing industry as much as they dislike mining. For that look no further than their claims to oppose the King Cove road because they believe it could eventually be used to transport seafood to Cold Bay, as if that would actually be such a terrible thing even if it did happen.

Commercial fishermen would do well to remember that asking the federal government to shortcut the process to preemptively veto Pebble or attempting to stop it through the ballot process is no different than the similar ongoing attempts to shut them down all across the state whether in the Bering Sea or Cook Inlet setnet sites.

Pebble may very well be the “wrong mine in the wrong place” as Begich asserted, but allowing a federal agency to cook up a decision to support a predetermined outcome in collaboration with a select group of interest groups while violating state sovereignty is a shortsighted position that will not stop there.

My fellow columnist Welch may find Sullivan’s response on the Pebble mine to let the established process work to be “tiresome,” but that makes it no less correct.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].

Updated: 
11/23/2016 - 2:46pm