Call it a new cold war: Russia, China and the United States all vying for influence and control in a part of the world that, this time, is quite literally cold. With more than half of all Arctic coastline along its northern shores, Russia has long sought economic and military dominance in part of the world where as much as $35 trillion worth of untapped oil and natural gas could be lurking. Now China is pushing its way into the Arctic, announcing last month its ambitions to develop a “Polar Silk Road” through the region as warming global temperatures open up new sea lanes and economic opportunities at the top of the world. At play is between one-fifth and a quarter of the world’s untapped fossil-fuel resources, not to mention a range of mineable minerals, including gold, silver, diamond, copper, titanium, graphite, uranium and other valuable rare earth elements. With the ice in retreat, those resources will come increasingly within reach.
North Slope Borough Mayor Talks Oil. The Trump administration’s vision for American “energy dominance” has big implications for Alaska, and this winter, some of them became more concrete. In December, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) was opened to drilling. And in January the Interior Department released a new draft plan to open most of Alaska’s coastal waters to oil development. One of the places that stands to be significantly impacted by those decisions is the North Slope. Harry K. Brower Jr., is the mayor of the North Slope Borough. He works out of a big mint-green building smack dab in center of Utqiaġvik — with his name and title printed on the front. On the second floor of the building, Brower sits at a conference table in his office and talks about some of the changes that may be coming to the region. The North Slope Borough has the ability to tax oil and gas infrastructure within its borders, and that money is what allows them to build roads, keep the schools open and pay for the fire department. But as the prospect of offshore drilling in the Arctic takes shape, the borough is also registering its concerns for how to protect the bowhead whale and other marine life people here depend on for food.
Mallott and Sullivan talk mining with Canada. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and U.S. Sen Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, have finished a day of meetings in Ottawa with high-ranking Canadian officials. In a conference call with reporters, Mallott and Sullivan said most of the talks were related to issues involving Canadian mines near the Alaska border. “This is not some kind of anti-resource-development focus. We just think that we have some very legitimate concerns given that we are downriver from most of these mines in terms of what could happen,” Sullivan said. Fishermen and environmental groups are concerned about mine development in the coast range; spills of acid-generating mine tailings are a particular concern for fishermen who rely on salmon-bearing rivers that originate in Canada.
Sturgeon gets some help from his friends…at the state. Alaska’s state government is continuing to support a 10-year-old struggle with the National Park Service over the federal government’s authority to regulate hovercrafts in a river in the Interior. Alaska’s governors and Congressional delegations have consistently supported the lawsuit of Anchorage moose hunter John Sturgeon, arguing the case defends the State’s rights to manage its own lands. On Monday, Alaska filed a new “friend of the court” brief in support of Sturgeon as he asks the U.S. Supreme Court to take his case for a second time. “The State owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Sturgeon for continuing this fight, and the least we can do is support him in his efforts and defend the State’s sovereign rights,” Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said in a written statement. “We have and will continue working closely with John Sturgeon and his legal team to again seek Supreme Court review of the Ninth Circuit decision. We hope the Court will act to uphold Alaska’s sovereign interest in managing its lands and waters.” In 2007, Sturgeon was traveling by hovercraft on a shallow river in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve in order to reach his regular moose hunting grounds. National Park Service rangers contacted him on a sandbar and told him the hovercraft couldn’t be used on the river because of a national Park Service regulation against hovercrafts
Goodbye tension. Hello pension. Alaska Sen. Dennis Egan, one of the Legislature’s most colorful members, and certainly its saltiest, plans to announce his retirement live on radio Tuesday. He said he will serve out the remainder of his term with the Democratic Party, but he will not stand for re-election in November. Egan, who will turn 71 in two weeks, said his retirement is related to his health and not any political issue in the Legislature. Egan said he’s had multiple sclerosis since 1978, though it was misdiagnosed as an optic nerve problem until MRI technology became common and he was scanned in the early 1980s. Egan now has trouble with dizziness and his balance, especially around water – a big problem in a tidal community like Juneau. Even walking on a boat dock gives him trouble, he said. Moreover, he told Channel 2 that his health forced him to sell his beloved boat. His aides say they worry about him falling, especially since he won’t use a cane outside his home. Egan has been Juneau’s senator since 2009, when he was appointed by Gov. Sarah Palin to take the place of Kim Elton, who left for the Department of the Interior. His father, Bill Egan, was Alaska’s first state governor. Dennis Egan spent years as a radio broadcaster – a position that has always seemed a bit incongruous given the four-letter words that pepper his normal speech. He said he will make his retirement announcement Tuesday morning as a talk-show guest on KINY, which is a radio station he once owned.
Senate leaders on oil and healthcare costs. Today in Juneau, the State Senate convened and spoke to the press, about major issues privy to all Alaskans. In our segment, Republican Senators Peter Micciche of Soldotna and Cathy Giessel of Anchorage, respond to queries concerning oil prices and soaring healthcare costs. Currently, Alaska has the highest healthcare costs across the nation, while the USA has the highest healthcare costs across the globe.
Russia and China vie to beat the US in the trillion-dollar race to control the Arctic
CNBC, Clay Dillow, February 6, 2018
Borough mayor on new potential development coming to the North Slope
Alaska Public Media, Ravenna Koenig, February 5, 2018
Lt. Gov. Mallott, Sen. Sullivan travel to Canada for boundary talks
Juneau Empire, February 5, 2018
Alaska files brief in support of hunter suing Park Service
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Friedman, February 6, 2018
Juneau Senator plans retirement
KTUU, Richard Mauer, February 5, 2018
State Senate Discusses Oil Prices & Soaring Healthcare Costs
Your Alaska Link, Maria Athens, February 5, 2018