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MILLER: Alaska’s regulatory stranglehold

Bureaucrats stymie economic development in the Last Frontier

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gov. Sean Parnell just wants Washington to leave Alaska alone. The Frontier State's North Slope currently satisfies 11 percent of the nation's daily thirst for oil. The Republican governor thinks that percentage should be higher, but the Obama administration is stopping him from doing what needs to be done for America's energy security.

Mr. Parnell believes it's possible to boost output enough within 10 years to send a million barrels of black gold through the pipeline daily. "It's an aggressive goal, but it's achievable," he told GOP leaders and activists at the Conservative Political Action Convention cruise, which docked in the capital of Juneau.

The oil-rich state has abundant resources waiting to be tapped. "We want to explore more. We have a lot more oil to find," Mr. Parnell said. "But we have been stymied by the federal government." In particular, the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are tying his hands. He pointed to the EPA dragging its feet for five years to grant permits for Arctic offshore drilling, while the same permits are routinely granted in a matter of months for the Gulf of Mexico.

In an interview aboard ship with The Washington Times, Mr. Parnell said he has had to take the federal government to court about 18 times in the last two years over disagreements with Endangered Species Act listings and Critical Habitat areas designations that thwart efforts at economic development. Part of the strategy has been to work closely with governors of other resource-rich states to mount a combined legal effort against Washington's regulatory excess. "We began to understand that the federal government was picking us off one by one, but we have the same issues," Mr. Parnell explained.

Alaska joined Nevada in a mining case and backed Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in a lawsuit over oil permits. "When the interests of Alaskans are affected by what the federal government is doing in Lousiana or Nevada, I'm going to stand up for them," said Mr. Parnell. Already, the resource-state governors beat back President Obama's proposed "Great Outdoor Initiative," which attempted to encumber wild lands with a new restricted status. Alaska's chief executive questioned White House authority, explaining that a "regulatory agency should not by initiative or by guidance be locking up lands. That needs to come as a directive of Congress."

Alaska has no sales or income tax. It funds government operations entirely through resource revenue. While other states are struggling to balance their budgets, the 49th state is able to put 25 percent a year into a rainy day fund. Still, even a well-run state can't last forever without expanding opportunities, which is why Alaskans overwhelmingly support drilling.

As Mr. Parnell put it, "Republicans and Democrats here support oil exploration and development. They share the belief that we can develop responsibly and create these jobs. I have more difficulty and challenges with the federal administration using the regulatory agencies as an extension of a worldview that is different than Alaska's." The state is blessed with oil reserves that could promote energy independence and a boost our economy - but the feds are in the way.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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