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Alaska editorials

Posted August 30

Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:

Aug. 26, 2017

Ketchikan Daily News: Tune out noise

Action speaks loudest.

Since the beginning of the Trump administration, Alaska has been the host to at least two federal department chiefs — two come quickly to mind, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who was here this week.

Both came at the behest of Alaska's senators in Washington, D.C. — Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan — which illustrates well the power and influence, as well as the welcoming personalities, of the two.

Murkowski, after 15 years in the Senate, has begun to attain the power reminiscent of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, who spent 40-some years serving Alaska. She is on the Appropriations, and Energy and Natural Resources committees in addition to Indian Affairs; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. While Sullivan is a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, as well as Armed Services, Environment and Public Works, and Veterans' Affairs.

The duo favors responsible development of Alaska's natural resources and reducing the red tape that delays and prevents projects of all economic benefit from moving forward.

Toward that end, Sullivan and Murkowski welcomed Chao to Alaska during the Senate's August break.

This week Chao spoke with transportation officials and industry in Alaska, coming to the conclusion that the federal government will more quickly advance projects, which here-to-date were delayed by a burdensome regulatory process.

This is no small matter in that Alaska receives about $500 million annually for its transportation projects through the Federal Highway Administration. Alaska matches federal dollars with a 10-percent contribution.

Toward alleviating project delays, Chao noted that Alaska has become only the seventh state to acquire an agreement with the federal government that allows it to conduct environmental reviews for state-federal highway projects.

The agreement, which is under the National Environmental Policy Act, is expected to be signed in October, according to Chao.

Environmental protections will remain and the federal government will monitor the state's reviews, but projects should be able to move forward more efficiently.

Ketchikan and southern Southeast Alaska benefit from federal highway funds through road projects and building of Alaska Marine Highway System ships.

There's considerable noise coming out of Washington, D.C. since Trump's inauguration. It's difficult at times to know what's true and what isn't, with politicians and pundits presenting points of view favorable to their preferences and possibly not the states' and nation's.

Alaskans can tune the noise out and look at what's being accomplished for Alaska.

____

Aug. 30, 2017

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Rejecting an invite to meet mine's proponents is bad form by House speaker

One of the jobs of being an elected official is that you are supposed to meet with people — even those with whom you have profound disagreement.

An elected official can make it clear that he or she won't be swayed by whatever it is that someone might want to say about a subject. Even so, there may exist on some subjects the possibility that someone might actually have information that could change the elected official's mind.

Regardless, courtesy dictates that the elected official hear out the person or group of people, even if it is about a controversial project that the elected official opposes and that is proposed for the elected official's legislative district.

Rejecting an invitation to meet about such a project would be inappropriate.

And yet that is what Rep. Bryce Edgmon, Democrat of Dillingham, did in refusing to meet with a new advisory committee put together by the Pebble Partnership, the entity pressing ahead with efforts to develop an enormous open pit copper and gold mine in the headwaters region of salmon-rich Bristol Bay, which is within his district.

Worse, Rep. Edgmon also is the speaker of the House, the leader of the majority in the chamber. As such, he had an even higher obligation to meet with the committee.

The issue erupted recently when the Pebble advisory committee decided it wanted to meet with opponents of the proposed mine. Invitations were sent to many people, including Rep. Edgmon, to attend the committee's first meeting. They didn't attend. Instead, they spat verbally on the invitation and opted to stage a protest rally outside the meeting.

"To members of the Pebble advisory committee: Thanks, but no thanks," began the snarky column published Aug. 19 in the Alaska Dispatch News and signed by Ralph Andersen, CEO of Bristol Bay Native Association; Robert Heyano, president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay; Brian Kraft, president of Katmai Service Providers; Myrtice Noden, executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai; Robin Samuelson, president of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.; Norm Van Vactor, CEO of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.; Nelli Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited — and by the speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, Rep. Edgmon.

"Bristol Bay has thought this over for a long time, and we have long since made up our minds: Pebble mine is not welcome here. The discussion is over," the column continues. "It is an utter waste of your time, and ours, to sit down and discuss how to build a 'better' mine in Bristol Bay. That's because our region does not want a Pebble mine in any size, form or configuration."

That's not very speaker-like talk by the speaker of the House.

No question the Pebble Mine is one of the most controversial resource-extraction proposals Alaska has seen in many years.

The Environmental Protection Agency, during the Obama administration, blocked development of the Pebble Mine, citing its significant risk to the Bristol Bay fishery. The Pebble Partnership then sued the EPA, alleging collusion between the Obama-era EPA and the mine's opponents, though the agency's inspector general later determined none existed. Earlier this year, and with a friendlier administration in the White House, the EPA reversed itself as part of a court settlement and will now allow the Pebble Partnership to proceed with the permitting process.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said at the time the agency "will provide Pebble a fair process" and that "We are committed to listening to all voices as this process unfolds."

That's something House Speaker Edgmon should have done — and should do — regarding Pebble Mine.

Whether Pebble is ultimately good or bad for Alaska is something Alaskans will have to decide. Even with public sentiment against the mine, as it seems to be, the project's proponents deserve a fair hearing — from government agencies and from elected officials.

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