Rebecca Logan

GUEST COMMENTARY: Alaskans want to keep right to work for themselves

Alaskans have always had an independent, pioneering spirit. It is no surprise then, that a recent poll commissioned by the Alaska Chamber, Alaska Trucking Association, Alaska Support Industry Alliance and the Associated General Contractors of Alaska found, by a 3-to-1 margin, Alaskans prefer the right to work for themselves when, where and for whom they want. A new law under consideration by the U.S. Senate, the “Protecting the Right to Organize” Act or PRO Act, would limit not only Alaskans’ work choices but also our businesses’ ability to adapt. While supporters of the PRO Act claim it is a tool to support workers, its provisions deprive workers of fundamental rights, significantly reduces workers’ options to choose independent contract work, and increases costs on small businesses by requiring them to hire full-time staff at a time when many are trying to get back on their feet. One of the most concerning elements of the PRO Act is the inclusion of a more restrictive form of the “ABC” test, which is used to determine if someone should be classified as an employee or an independent contractor. California included this “ABC” test in their disastrous 2019 “Assembly Bill 5” only to find it prevented everyone from teachers to writers to retirees from working as independent contractors. To date, California has passed dozens of “exemptions’” to the bill and they are still going. Our poll found Alaskans don’t want to repeat California’s mistakes around independent contractors. When Alaskans learned more about how the PRO Act would drastically alter current federal labor laws and significantly affect who was able to be an independent contractor in Alaska, more than 60 percent of Alaskans opposed the bill. This was true even among current union members who opposed the PRO Act by 57 percent after learning about its provisions. What’s more, 85 percent of Alaskans agreed that it was important they be able to choose to work as independent contractors. More than 80 percent believe federal laws should continue to protect the rights of Alaskans to work as independent contractors. Alaska’s federal representatives should take heed: Alaska’s workers don’t want new mandates or classifications. Instead, they overwhelmingly want to preserve their choice to be independent contractors and work when and for whom they choose. Further, Alaska’s businesses — like many around the country — are struggling to fill vacancies as pandemic restrictions are eased and consumer confidence grows. Additional regulatory costs and restrictions on businesses already unable to find workers will only further hamper their ability to reset and restart after struggling through the last 15 months. Now is not the time to implement failed California policies that dictate relationships between workers and businesses. It didn’t work for California, and it certainly won’t work for Alaska. Alicia Siira is executive director of Associated General Contractors of Alaska. Joe Michel is executive director of the Alaska Trucking Association. Rebecca Logan is president and CEO of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance. Kati Capozzi is president and CEO of the Alaska Chamber.

GUEST COMMENTARY: 90 days is plenty of time to review Pebble EIS

Some may find it easy to pile on to the Pebble mine just because it has the perception of controversy. However, just because a project is perceived as controversial does not make it OK to change the norms of review and process. This causes all within the regulated resource community alarm and concern because a well-established process demonstrates stability and stability is the lifeblood of investment. Organizations that want to see Alaska’s economy grow have long been on record in support of fair, stable, consistent and due process for all projects in Alaska. Sen. Dan Sullivan and President Donald Trump have made permitting reform top priorities, calling the current permitting process “broken” and reform “long overdue.” Sen. Sullivan has taken a lead on this by speaking out against delay tactics that abuse the National Environmental Policy Act and by pushing legislation to establish time limits on federal permit reviews. Recently, several groups have called upon the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to slow down the review process for the Pebble Project’s “lengthy” draft Environmental Impact Statement. This is a classic delay tactic deployed whenever a government agency is following the normal regulatory path for a project. It is called “slow rolling,” and in Alaska, this has traditionally been used by environmental organizations to slow down progress being made on resource development projects. As many in the business community understand, delay costs projects time and money. Prior to the release of the Pebble Project draft EIS, some were saying the document would not be comprehensive enough. Well, that argument went out the window the moment the document was published. The draft EIS for Pebble is about 1,400 pages, with an 80-page executive summary and another 1,600 pages of appendices. This places it at just a little above the norm for a draft EIS review document for a resource project in Alaska. Then there is the question of whether a 90-day review is an adequate amount of time for the public to review 1,400 pages, with the caveat that most members of the public tend to read through the executive summary. In the case of the Pebble DEIS, that is about 80 pages. To put this in perspective, here are some recent public comment windows: • ANWR Coastal Plain Leasing (2018): 45 days, extended by 30 days, 392 pages. • Tongass Timber Sale on Prince of Wales Island (2018): 45 days, no extension, 408 pages. • Oil Search Nanushuk Project: 45 days, extended by 30 days, 1,191 pages. • Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline Project (2017): 45 days, extended by 15 days, 1,822 pages. • Chukchi Sea OCS Oil and Gas Lease Sale 193 (2014): 45 days, no extension, 694 pages. • Point Thomson (2011): 45 days, extended by 15 days, 1,506 pages. • Red Dog Aqqaluk Expansion (2008): 60 days, no extension, 464 pages. In looking at the projects noted, the Pebble draft EIS 90-day comment window is actually longer than all of them. Three months to read, review and comment on the Pebble draft EIS is more than adequate. Surprisingly, some groups are pushing for a 270-day comment window for the Pebble draft EIS. Those of us in the resource development community know nine months will not improve the public’s opportunity for comment; rather, this will slow down Pebble’s progress and let national environmental groups like the Natural Resource Defense Council continue to flood the comment ballot box via electronic post cards. Comment window extensions beyond the norm only serve to further Alaska’s reputation as a state with great resource potential challenged by regulatory instability. If Alaska wants the resource investment community to know it is open for business, holding firm on reasonable regulatory actions is a good place to start. Rebecca Logan is the CEO of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Investments keep Southcentral out of the cold

Alaskans have long recognized the importance of Cook Inlet producers and the energy and economic opportunities they create. With ongoing investments, the region has flourished and southcentral Alaska’s energy production has reached new heights. Energy development in Alaska, and across the Cook Inlet is a big reason why the Alaska Support Industry Alliance exists today. Our members understand the necessity of safe and environmentally sensitive development and know the importance of accessibility to affordable Alaskan energy sources. Natural gas production in Cook Inlet provides heat and electricity to over 80 percent of the Southcentral region. Many Alaskans, myself included, remember just a few years back when the threat of brownouts was a great concern for everyone in Anchorage. Fortunately, through a coordinated effort of the legislature, the utilities and the producers the threat was eliminated. In contrast, southcentral Alaska now has a valuable supply of energy today, which can be attributed directly to the investments made in the last few years. Production in Cook Inlet has risen dramatically since 2010, with 75 new oil and gas wells drilled. This increase has brought numerous benefits to the region and its people. Benefits such as affordable energy and regional infrastructure can all be directly attributed to producers entering and conducting exploration projects in Cook Inlet. These projects have led to added investments such as refinery and port infrastructure that continue to add value to Alaska and its economy. Additionally, many Cook Inlet producers are smaller or independent operators who have weathered the oil price downturn when others had to stall their investments. The companies remaining in Cook Inlet deserve recognition for the jobs and revenue their responsible development continues to provide. Sadly, environmental groups seek to mischaracterize these producers and downplay their investments in an attempt to emphasize their own agenda. Such is the case occurring right now with attacks on Hilcorp Alaska’s operations. The company recently discovered and quickly reported two small unrelated leaks in their Cook Inlet operations. One has been assessed at less than three gallons of oil, an amount too small to allow for response equipment use. Activists groups, however, do not focus on the company’s quick response or their past contributions to Alaska. Instead, they turn the story into a rallying cry for why all offshore drilling should be banned. Opportunism at its worst. Hilcorp Alaska has been the largest operator in Cook Inlet since they acquired Chevron’s platforms and associated infrastructure. Obviously it would be a major blow to our communities and the state if those investments were never made. Communities in Alaska and the members of the Alliance rely on the investments energy companies bring to the state. From communications, to finance, to oilfield services, our members constantly receive new business from Cook Inlet operations. These operators also hire our members as contractors, providing vital jobs and tax dollars to the region. The Alliance is proud of the new heights energy producers in Cook Inlet have reached in the last few decades. Discounting these achievements based on minor incidents is unproductive and damaging to the economic future of the state. Outside activists should first speak with the companies who support these Cook Inlet producers on a daily basis to hear their testaments before issuing ridiculous press releases disparaging Alaska’s top industry. If they did so, they might realize the value of these producers who keep the lights on in Southcentral Alaska. Rebecca Logan is the president of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance.
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