Gov. Mike Dunleavy criticized the Biden administration Thursday for recent decisions not to develop Alaska’s natural resources, including oil reserves and minerals, to power America’s energy industry.
“A week does not go by that there is a body blow to Alaska from the Biden administration,” Dunleavy said during a talk to the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce.
The governor referred to the Biden administration’s decision to ban drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) after former President Donald Trump opened up more than a million acres in the coastal plain to gas and oil leases.
Dunleavy also criticized the Biden administration’s decision to import minerals, including cobalt, lithium and silver, for the development of electric vehicles and other smart technology, when they are abundant in Alaska.
“This administration does not want to develop our resources, whether it is oil from ANWR or our mining,” Dunleavy said to an audience of about 50 Chamber members, meeting at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel & Conference Center.
“My message to Biden is: You need these elements for the new economy. But you are going out of the nation for them.”
Dunleavy said the U.S. has stricter environmental regulations than most any other country.
“If you care about the environment, you should want the mining to be managed by people who care about the environment,” he said, referring to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other regulators.
The U.S. instead is importing
minerals from Africa, China and other nations, where industries are allowed to pollute, destroy habitat and damage the natural environment with their activities.
“When you look at what is happening in Africa and China, it is not a pretty sight,” he said. “There is environmental degradation going on.”
Dunleavy said the state of Alaska and the Biden administration have fundamental differences in philosophy over the future development of Alaska’s natural resources.
“We want to work with the Biden administration with some of these potentials in renewables that the technology has afforded,” Dunleavy said, noting opportunities for solar and wind. “But the technology has improved on oil and gas development as well.”
The governor and Alaska’s delegation in Congress say that gas and oil will continue to be needed as an essential part of the nation’s energy portfolio.
The governor also said that private businesses increasingly are looking at opportunities in Alaska. He disclosed that state leaders recently had a fourth meeting with executives from Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
“They see Alaska’s potential as unlimited,” Dunleavy said, promising “exciting news” in the near future for the state’s economy. “I am asking people to embrace opportunity in all its forms.”
Berkshire Hathaway is a diversified global holding company based in the Midwest with subsidiaries in insurance, freight rail transportation, energy, manufacturing and retail.
In other business news, Dunleavy noted the high volume of cargo activity at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, which is the fourth-busiest in the world for cargo shipping.
Dunleavy said the Fairbanks International Airport has the same potential for cargo shipping because it is closer geographically than Anchorage to the Lower 48 and to Asia.
Dunleavy, accompanied by Revenue Commissioner Lucinda Mahoney, also discussed his plan to place in the state Constitution his new formula for the Permanent Fund dividend.
His proposed constitutional amendment would set a draw limit, with half going toward dividends and half funding government services.
A constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate to advance to the November 2022 ballot for voter approval.
“The proposal further ensures profits are equally divided between Alaskans and their government, easing the budget deficit that has lasted nearly a decade,” Dunleavy said in a press release issued after the Chamber meeting.
“The 50-50 component balances the budget within five years, and requires no broad-based taxes,” he said, adding that “any proposal that treats the Permanent Fund as the Legislature’s personal piggy bank will not work.”
Dunleavy’s amendment will be heard in the Senate Finance Committee at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
The Legislature is in special session to decide the dividend and approve the state budget.
Contact political reporter Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.