AJOC EDITORIAL: Trump administration breathes life into Alaska

A year ago to the day from this writing, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in a political upset for the ages that both Democrats and Republicans are still trying to come to grips with.

The infighting between Republican ranks of the establishment put off by Trump’s brash nature versus the voters who put them all in power is rivaled only by the Democrats’ self-immolation over the still ongoing Wednesday-morning quarterbacking about how Clinton blew what was supposed to be an easy win and recent revelations about primary-rigging and the Russian “collusion” that are leading not to the White House but to the Democratic campaign apparatus instead.

While there was immediate hope within Alaska at the realization that the federal government would get its boot off the state’s neck after eight years of strangulation by the Obama administration, nobody could have predicted just how greatly Trump would focus on unlocking the state’s resources.

This December, the entire available area of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska of nearly 12 million acres will be up for bid in a lease sale.

Around that same time, Congress should be passing a tax reform bill through budget reconciliation that will finally open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to development as was intended nearly 40 years ago when that area was set aside for its vast potential.

After the much-publicized $7 billion failure of Shell to explore its Arctic offshore leases, Eni and Hilcorp are quietly advancing plans to produce oil from federal waters of the Outer Continental Shelf from manmade islands.

Regular order has been restored to the permitting process for the Pebble mine, whose owners have finally released a plan for a scaled-down version of the project with an assurance it will finally get a fair hearing.

Right now, Gov. Bill Walker is the only state executive traveling with Trump on his trip to Asia, and the president has dotted his administration with Alaskans in some of the most important positions.

Trump has recognized Alaska’s strategic national security importance, and just sought another $4 billion for a new missile defense site at Fort Greely.

He put Alaskans in charge of the nation’s fisheries, its on and offshore minerals, the Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 covering the state and made Tara Sweeney the first Alaska Native woman appointed to a confirmation-level post as the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs.

The road from King Cove to Cold Bay looks surer to become a reality than it ever has, and while the environmental non-government organizations have howled at its recent progress, the fact an issue as relatively small as this one has caught the attention of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as a priority speaks volumes about Alaska’s status in the current administration.

Oh, there have been troubles along the way, as Trump has aimed his Twitter ire at our senior Sen. Lisa Murkowski over her reticence to go along with a rushed process on repealing Obamacare that even included an alleged threat from Zinke in a beef that was quickly squashed.

Even on that front, earlier this year the state received an “innovation waiver” under Obamacare that allowed the federal government to fund the state’s reinsurance program in lieu of larger premium support payments. The move makes Alaska likely the only state in the nation in line to see insurance premiums fall next year.

Thanksgiving is still a couple weeks away, but it’s never too early to be glad for where the state stands now compared the wasteland it would have been under a President Hillary Clinton.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at andrew.jensen@alaskajournal.com.

Updated: 
11/08/2017 - 11:45am

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