Alaska Editorials

12/3/2014 4:15 PM
By Associated Press

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

Nov. 29, 2014

Ketchikan Daily News: Parnell did well

Gov. Sean Parnell did well for Ketchikan and Alaska in ways that count.

Parnell became Alaska's chief executive in July 2009 after Gov. Sarah Palin resigned. He served honorably for five years and ends his term Monday with the swearing in of Governor-elect Bill Walker.

Parnell brought a sense of calm and thoughtfulness to the governor's office, which Alaskans longed for after all of the drama that circulated in and around the previous administration.

From his own swearing in, Parnell went to work as governor for Alaskans. Of great relief to Ketchikan and every other community that reaps the benefits of cruise ship tourism, Gov. Parnell met with cruise line officials. As a result, Alaska began to realize an increase in cruise line activity, which had declined when a ballot initiative imposed a statewide passenger head tax.

Not only tourism, but the timber industry gained Parnell's attention. At his direction, Alaska sued the federal government in 2011, challenging a ban on new logging roads in millions of acres in national forests, including the Tongass National Forest.

Parnell had the wisdom to avoid the Affordable Health Care Act, aka Obamacare, for Alaska in two aspects. For the first, he declined to establish a state-run exchange, and, secondly, he opted out of the Medicaid expansion. Given that other states which proceeded with participation are beginning to reverse course, Parnell's actions might prove the better route.

Additionally, Parnell walked the high wire when it came to balancing community capital project requests with the state's declining oil revenue.

In Ketchikan, he signed off on capital dollars for Ketchikan Shipyard, building two Alaska Marine Highway System ferries, City of Ketchikan port renovations, a new city fire hall, a new city library, a hospital upgrade, and Swan Lake Hydroelectric expansion.

Ketchikan took advantage of the opportunity to build its infrastructure during the Parnell administration.

Parnell dedicated himself to passage of Senate Bill 21, which provided a new tax structure for oil companies operating in the state. The bill passed the Legislature. An initiative opposing the bill appeared on the state's primary election ballot; voters joined with Parnell to keep SB21 intact.

Parnell stated the new tax structure would increase oil production activity in the state. With more production, he concluded in his argument, Alaska would realize more oil dollars than it would without it — whatever the oil prices might be at the time.

Parnell adopted early in his term a campaign of Choose Respect, an attempt to draw attention to the state's epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault. Ironically, sexual abuse scandals within the Alaska National Guard, which reports ultimately to the governor's office, tarnished the governor during the gubernatorial election. But, Choose Respect still successfully increased awareness of the problem, which precedes a solution.

The Choose Respect campaign will outlive Parnell's administration.

As with all governors, Gov. Parnell had challenges and highlights during his term. Now that it's ending, it is appropriate to recall the achievements and show appreciation for his effort in their regard.

Gov. Parnell clearly did much for Ketchikan and Alaska. Thank you, governor and good luck.


Nov. 26, 2014

Alaska Journal of Commerce: Judge puts brakes on the EPA

In a remarkable twist to the decade-long saga over the Pebble mine, a federal judge ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to halt its work on the effort to preemptively veto the project before any plans have been submitted.

It is a ruling that should be cheered by everyone in the resource development community — in Alaska and around the nation — as the beleaguered company carries on its legal challenges against the EPA's attempt to establish precedential powers under the Clean Water Act that will no doubt eventually go beyond Pebble and chill investment across the country.

The heart of this case — and why Judge H. Russel Holland's ruling is significant — is the routine behind-the-scenes collaboration between government agencies such as the EPA and anti-development interest groups to fix the outcome of decisions.

The Freedom of Information Act responses obtained by the Pebble Limited Partnership and relied upon by Holland in issuing his injunction Nov. 24 reveal an EPA process that dates back to at least 2008 when Phillip North of Region 10 began laying out a roadmap for how to stop the project.

One of the major arguments the EPA has advanced over the years since it announced in 2011 it would conduct an assessment of mining impacts in the Bristol Bay watershed is that the agency was compelled to undertake the process because it had been asked to by Alaska Native groups in the region.

However, the emails by and among EPA officials and anti-Pebble groups reveal that the idea for having Native groups ask for the assessment originated because the agency knew it could not independently begin the process without a permit application and so the plan was hatched to have stakeholders in the region make the request.

What is abundantly clear from the emails and records obtained by Pebble is that the EPA was never committed to an unbiased evaluation of mining in the region and in fact was seeking evidence to support its predetermined outcome.

Reaching a conclusion before conducting the research is in fact the opposite of science, and the anti-Pebble groups and EPA officials who state the Bristol Bay assessment is a scientific document should rethink that claim.

It has been written in this space that Pebble may very well be the wrong mine in the wrong place, and without discussing the merits of the project it is apparent that the overzealous and potentially unlawful effort to preemptively stop the mine may very well end up doing more harm than good to its opponents.

If Holland eventually rules in Pebble's favor and against the EPA, the entire multi-year assessment process and millions of taxpayer dollars will have been wasted leaving the leaders of that effort with no one but themselves to blame.

When a judge issues an injunction, the key pillar of the decision is whether the party seeking it is likely to prevail on the merits of the underlying claim. Holland's issuance of an injunction against the EPA reveals that he believes this to be case.

It is also important to note that the same Judge Holland in September dismissed another case brought by Pebble against the EPA challenging the Bristol Bay assessment as not ripe for consideration.

Holland's decisions reaching opposite outcomes in the two Pebble cases reveal he is considering each case on the merits according to the law, which is the sort of unbiased demeanor that federal agencies such as the EPA are also obligated to bring to bear on issues such as Pebble.

His injunction against the EPA and its process for producing the Bristol Bay assessment is a sign that the agency failed to meet that neutral obligation and may finally be held to account for it.


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