GUEST COMMENTARY: House wastes time in attempt to deny opportunity to Inupiaq people
Environmental extremists have a secret weapon to offset the common-sense approaches to responsible development most Americans support: Ideologue politicians. Men and women whose elections are financed by some of the hundreds of millions spent by environmental non-government organizations to influence public policy.
Can you imagine if Alaska’s congressional delegation put forth a bill to forbid growing apples in Washington, shut down movie-making in California, outlaw citrus farming in Florida or stop corn cultivation in Iowa? The residents of those states would become unhinged, crying foul and expressing disdain over the loss of jobs, economy and future.
But, one such effort by one such politician reared its head in the U.S. House of Representatives. California Democrat Rep. Jared Huffman, a former employee of the radical environmental organization National Resources Defense Council, conjured up enough support in the chamber to pass legislation putting the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge off-limits for development.
Passing the House 225-193 on Sept. 12, largely along party lines, Huffman’s side claimed victory for the environment, the caribou and the indigenous way of life. Rep. Don Young stayed true to his long-time support of responsible development, voting “no” on the measure, and chiding his colleagues for wasting its time.
The extremists’ emotional outpourings on ANWR preach of the sacredness of the land; it is a beautiful place, the last untouched wildlife area in North America and a place where caribou roam free.
Some even recite the language of the Gwich’in, who live hundreds of miles away from where oil would be extracted. The Gwich’in call the area “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins) – a bumper-sticker slogan exploited repeatedly by the anti-development cabal.
The extremists conveniently ignore the perspective of the only Alaska Native group who lives closest to the potential development, own land within ANWR, and significantly favor responsible ANWR development: the Inupiaq people of the Arctic Slope region.
The federal government specifically set aside the coastal plain (often referred to as the 1002 area) as a future economic zone, understanding its location near the giant Prudhoe Bay field. Apparently, the ability for an indigenous community to improve its own economic and social well-being doesn’t make for a cute bumper sticker.
Fortunately for America and its drive for energy independence and dominance, H.R.1146 is guaranteed to die as it reaches the U.S. Senate. Senate President Mitch McConnell and his majority have said as much, with Alaska’s Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan leading the fight against the abominable legislation. Even if it was to pass that body, President Trump has guaranteed a veto.
Realizing that ANWR is on federal lands, and therefore, subject to viewpoints and dialogue from all across America is one thing. Recognizing that Alaska’s fragile economy — driven by responsible resource development — is still worst in the nation in unemployment numbers is another.
The eco-extremists — both individual, corporate and non-profit — are spending money to damage Alaska’s economy, in an area Congress set aside to help create and sustain jobs. They get away with these actions because of the volume — both in money and voice — that drowns out those of reasonable Americans.
Hopefully, the House can get back to work on legislation that actually improves Americans’ lives, hopes and future, rather than appease their eco-extremist campaign funding sources with actions that would do irreparable harm to our great state. Alaska needs jobs. Alaska needs additional oil flowing through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and Alaska needs the voice of reason to rise up and drown out the cries of the fanatical environmental activists, who insist that wildlife be identified as more important than human life.
Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future, a national non-profit advocating for energy workers and development opportunities, while pushing back on radical green groups and the ideologues who fund them.