As many Alaskans know, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will be visiting our state next week, including a visit to Utqiagvik. This is a commitment she made to Senator Dan Sullivan prior to his confirmation, and we are encouraged that she keeps that commitment.
Due to the power that Home Secretaries have over our state, relations between the Secretary and Heads of State have been strained at various times in history. And many of the decisions the Department of the Interior, or DOI, has made under Secretary Haaland have the potential to continue this strained relationship.
But we hope that when she sees our state with her own eyes, when she hears from those directly affected by these decisions, that she will change course and make announcements that will be good for our state, our people, and our country.
Specifically, among other actions she may take, we would like her to announce the following: She and the President will faithfully carry out the law with respect to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR; The DOI will fully support the Willow project by re-committing to complete the environmental impact study in June, as well as committing to support other energy projects in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, or NPR. -HAS ; announce that the DOI will accept the King Cove Road land exchange without further consideration; and, finally, approving signed public land ordinances that will allow Vietnam-era Alaska Native veterans to apply for the land allotments they have been promised.
These actions would strengthen our communities and our country, save lives and right the wrongs inflicted on Alaska Patriots.
First, the NPR-A on the North Slope of Alaska contains billions of barrels of oil and has the potential to supply hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day to meet our nation’s energy needs. Roughly the size of Indiana, the NPR-A was set aside in 1923 specifically for emergency oil production. We believe that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the disruption it is causing in energy markets, and the astronomical prices Americans are paying at the pumps is an emergency.
Yet the Biden administration continues to take actions, including freezing drilling on federal lands, that are delaying fields — like Willow — that are on the verge of production, and making oil exploration and production impossible. in other areas of the NPR-A.
We would also like to remind Secretary Haaland that Congress passed and the former President signed legislation opening ANWR Area 1002. It’s the law. We hope she will announce her commitment to uphold the law, honor existing leases and allow the legally required second remaining lease sale within ANWR.
The bottom line: As we’ve both said repeatedly, it makes no sense for the Biden administration to call on other countries — like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Iran — to produce more oil when we have it in our country and produce it using more stringent environmental standards.
Additionally, Secretary Haaland hails from New Mexico, where power generation on tribal lands is extensive. On these lands, and across the state, the Bureau of Land Management, under DOI, has approved thousands of oil and gas permits during the secretary’s tenure, so she should understand how such production benefits native communities. Due to resource development on the Alaskan North Slope and elsewhere in the state, Alaska Natives are no longer among the poorest people on earth. If the needs are still great, they are no longer one whaling away from starvation. We have health care clinics and schools in our communities. We have come a long way. We respectfully ask Secretary Haaland to treat Alaska as he treats New Mexico and allow us to continue to grow our economy so that the progress we have made is not undone.
Second, we understand that she will be visiting King Cove during her trip. She will hear the community advocate for an 11-mile gravel road that leads to Cold Bay and an all-weather airport that would allow them to be transported to medical facilities in the event of an emergency. Too many lives have been lost and endangered because of the lack of this road. In 2013, then Home Secretary Sally Jewell visited the area. When she returned to DC, from the comfort of her office, she issued a statement refusing the road, telling the residents of King Cove that protecting the birds was more important than protecting them.
We fervently hope that Secretary Haaland is not so insensitive and commits to approving this life-saving route without delay.
Finally, we ask him to approve the public land ordinances that our Vietnam-era veterans of Alaska have been waiting for to finally get the land allotments they were promised.
In 1906, Congress passed a law allowing Alaska Natives to choose an allotment of 160 acres in the territory. These rights were extinguished in 1971 with the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act., or ANSA. However, many Alaska Natives – thousands – were serving in Vietnam and missed the application deadline.
In 1998, the Alaska congressional delegation was able to open the program, but, due to restrictions, thousands of veterans were still excluded. Senator Sullivan has successfully pushed through a bill that would give more Vietnam-era Alaska Native veterans the land they deserve. After countless studies and millions of dollars in environmental reviews, revoking the land ordinances just needed to be implemented. All the Biden administration had to do – literally – was click “send” to the Federal Register.
But the new administration delayed doing so for two years. Those two years are now up. We are concerned, however, that instead of immediately lifting the public land orders, she is instead announcing that the DOI will announce a decision based on a faulty environmental assessment, further delaying the program. We ask the Secretary not to take such action so that the federal government can finally fulfill its promise to allow some of the most patriotic Americans – who fought for us in Vietnam – to finally secure the lands that belong to them. birthright.
As Secretary Haaland visits our state, she will witness our great diversity of people and cultures, our geography, and a climate worthy of study by the best scientific minds. She will see the promise of a new Arctic frontier. She will also see how our vast reserves of oil and gas, as well as minerals and metals, could and should play a vital role in moving our country towards an “all of the above” energy future that includes renewables. .
She will meet the most welcoming and patriotic citizens of the country, living in the most beautiful state in the country. She will see why we love our state and why we are so determined to fight for its people. We hope she will join us as a partner in progress.
Harry Brower is the mayor of the North Slope Borough. He is a Democrat and a permanent resident of Utqiavik.
Senator Dan Sullivana Republican, represents Alaska in the U.S. Senate.
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