Gov. Sean Parnell just wants Washington bureaucrats to leave Alaska alone.
The Republican sailed out to our cruise ship when it stopped in the state’s capital of Juneau to speak at the Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC). The state’s tenth governor, who succeeded Sarah Palin, said that Alaska contributes 11 percent of the the nation’s daily consumption of oil from its North Slope, and he wants to increase that.
“We want to explore more. We have a lot more oil to find,” the sweater-clad governor told the Republican leaders and activists at CPAC. “We do not need to depend upon the Middle East as the source of choice. We need to develop our own domestic energy through production here. But we have been stymied by the federal government.”
Mr. Parnell said that the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are restricting his ability to develop resources. He pointed to the EPA taking five years to giveair permits for Arctic offshore drilling, while “these same permits are routinely granted in a matter of months for the Gulf of Mexico.”
In an interview after the speech, the governor told me that he has had to take the federal goverment to court about 18 times in the last two years for Endangered Species Act listings and Critical Habitat areas designations.
Mr. Parnell and other governors of resource states regularly ban together to fight against Washington’s excessive regulations.”We began to understand that the federal government was picking us off one by one, but we have the same issues.” he said.
As examples, he said that Alaska joined Nevada in a mining case and Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in an oil permit lawsuit. “When interests of Alaskans is affected by what the federal government is doing in Lousiana or Nevada, I’m going to stand up for them,” he explained.
He also talked about President Obama’s proposed “Great Outdoors Initiative”, which was an attempt to define wild lands as a new restricted status. The Fronteir State governor said that, “the regulatory agency should not by initaive or by guidance be locking up lands. That needs to come as a directive of Congress.”
The resource state governors protested to Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar and won. “The sole purpose was to take our multi-use land and make them single use, and that is contraty to federal land law and policy,” he said. “We were able to force Interior to push back and not pursue it.”
Despite the conflicts, Mr. Parnell said he had developed a “working relationship” with Mr. Salazar becuase he is his state’s “greatest land owner.” The two met last week at the governor’s office in Anchorage.
The oil-rich state would produce more, but it is stymied by red tape. He said his citizens overwhelmingly want to drill and at one point, 75 percent were in favor of opening a small portion of Anwar’s coastal plain for developent.
“Republicans and Democrats here support oil exploration and developmment. They share the belief that we can develop responsibly and create these jobs,” he said. “I have more difficulty and challenges with the federal administration using the regulatory agencies as an extension of a world view that is different than Alaska’s.”
The state executive’s goal is to get back to a million barrels a day within ten years. “It’s an aggressive goal but it’s achievable,” he said.
The state has no sales or income tax. It funds its government entirely through resource revenue. Mr. Parnell said that while other states are struggling to balance their budgets, Alaska is able to put 25 percent a year into a rainy day fund. “We have a stable economy, but I’d like to grow it,” he said.
Turning to politics, I asked if he thought Mrs. Palin was going to run for president. “I haven’t talked to her. I dont know if she will run,” her former lieutenant governor said.
Did he think that her high profile in the lower 48 was helpful for Alaska? He said that, “the postive side of it is America is starting to wake up to Alaska’s potential, particularly in the energy world and other tangential benefits, like tourism.” With that, the governor left CPAC and took his own boat back to the Juneau port.