As this year’s legislative session shifts into high gear, the RDC Board of Directors is preparing to visit Juneau to advance its 2010 policy positions. These administrative and legislative priorities will guide RDC’s advocacy efforts throughout the year. The 2010 policy positions reflect the many issues important to the membership. RDC’s top priorities this session include:
- Advocate for equitable and predictable tax and royalty policies for all industries that enhance the State of Alaska’s competitiveness for natural resource exploration and development investments.
- Support efforts to ensure Alaska’s ballot initiative process is open and transparent.
- Encourage the State of Alaska to promote and defend the integrity of Alaska’s permitting process.
- Support the State of Alaska’s efforts to challenge unwarranted Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings and proposed critical habitat designations.
Equitable and predictable fiscal policies
Given resource development is the lifeblood of Alaska’s economy, it is imperative the state have the right tax and royalty policies in place to attract the investment needed to develop our resources and therefore sustain our economy.
There is a world of opportunity for companies engaged in resource development. Make no mistake, they will develop the prospects within their global portfolios that offer the best returns, whether here in Alaska or abroad.
It is not enough that Alaska is rich in oil, gas, minerals and other resources because industry faces substantial risks and high costs in the arctic and sub-arctic. Even though Alaska oil, gas and mineral deposits may be world-class in size, the economics of developing these resources are highly challenging, given their remoteness and high power generation costs. The state can mitigate some of these challenges by creating a warmer business climate in Alaska, one that has attractive and highly competitive fiscal terms that compel industry to invest here.
While much of the attention right now is on attracting the investment needed to reverse the decline in North Slope production and increase throughput in the oil pipeline, Alaska also needs a fiscal and regulatory environment that restores the cruise ship and tourism industries in our state and encourages new mineral exploration and development.
Ballot initiative reform
Although we may sometimes question the appropriateness and the role of the ballot initiative process as a means of governing, RDC appreciates the rights of Alaskans to change state law through the initiative process. However, as we have seen over recent years, a number of proposed initiatives have been brought forward that do not have the best interest of the state nor its people in mind. Furthermore, tactics are often used in the signature gathering process that mislead the public and misconstrue the issues and impacts at play.
RDC agrees that standards must be put in place to ensure a candid process. We applaud Governor Sean Parnell for pledging his support for initiative reform and thank Representative Kyle Johansen for sponsoring HB 36, which will bring openness and transparency to the process.
Defend the integrity of the State’s permitting process
On the regulatory and permitting front, the state must defend the integrity of its permitting process. Numerous state, federal and local government permits and approvals are required before resource development projects can move forward. The state works cooperatively with industry, federal agencies and the public to ensure that projects are designed, operated and reclaimed in a manner consistent with the public interest.
Our permitting process, environmental standards and laws are second to none anywhere in the world. Yet opponents of resource development have aggressively attacked the process, even going as far in television and radio ads to claim that Alaska has no standards and developers can dig up as many miles of salmon habitat as they desire. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The state needs to step up, defend the process and clearly demonstrate Alaska development is highly regulated by a robust and rigorous process that protects the environment and the public interest.
Support State’s efforts to challenge unwarranted ESA listings
RDC will be encouraging the Legislature to support the State’s efforts in challenging unwarranted ESA listings, one of the greatest threats to Alaska’s natural resource-based economy. Recently Governor Parnell warned that energy development, both onshore and offshore of the North Slope, is in jeopardy by proposed critical habitat designations for the polar bear. The Governor noted “some are attempting to use the ESA to shut down resource development.” He vowed to not allow that to happen on his watch.
To the south, some 3,000 square miles near Anchorage have been proposed for critical habitat under the Cook Inlet beluga whale listing. At a recent RDC breakfast meeting, John McClellan, representing Tyonek Native Corporation, noted $18 billion worth of projects could potentially be impacted by this designation.
Attorney General Dan Sullivan pointed out there are two visions of the future of Alaska. “Ours is one in which responsible development proceeds apace and protections remain in place for wildlife, including polar bears, which we treasure. The other vision is one in which Alaska’s resources are locked up, our economy languishes, we lose population and we lack the capacity to maintain schools, roads, bridges, harbors and airports, or to provide public safety. It is imperative that the latter vision does not become a reality.” Indeed, the Legislature, through its actions, also needs to make sure the latter vision does not hit home.
On the federal front, RDC has provided President Obama and Congress with an overview of federal natural resource issues that affect Alaska. It includes RDC recommendations for the administration and Congress to consider as legislation and policies are developed to revitalize the economy, provide for the energy needs of America and responsibly develop natural resources domestically for the benefit of all Americans.
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