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By J. P. Tangen
Special to Mining News 

Our stars are aligned as never before

Our friends in Washington and Juneau not only hold the tillers of power but are steering our nation and state into calmer seas

 

Last updated 5/24/2019 at 5:08am



I know that it is a perennial hazard for those of us who follow the mining industry to be optimistic in the Spring every year; but, somehow, I don't seem to be able to contain myself this year. My ebullience is precipitated by the obvious as well as the subtle.

Obviously, the decision in the Sturgeon case is huge, all the more so because the decision was unanimous, and that was for the second time SCOTUS had to hear the matter. Liberal and conservative Justices agree: ANILCA is the law of the land. The Ninth Circuit must take note, and the National Park Service must do so as well.

May God bless John Sturgeon, a bona fide Alaska hero.

But that isn't the end of the good news. Also, on the front page is the recognition that the Alaska Miners Association is eighty years old. There are some of us who thought it wasn't going to survive the pitfalls and internecine disputes that were on the floor a few decades ago; however, great kudos go to at least the incumbent Executive Director and her immediate predecessor, the AMA has taken incredible strides forward in meaningful and substantive representation of the second (after only oil and gas) largest and most important industry in the State.

May God bless Deantha Crockett and Steve Borell, also heroes in their own right.

Now we have a State administration led by a governor who seems committed to leveraging the executive branch back onto the tracks first, by proclaiming that Alaska is open for business again and second, by tapping some truly competent and clear-headed commissioners to implement the message.

Whether success will reign depends on lots of factors, of course, but at this stage it is reasonable to believe that clear, competent leadership at the top of the executive branch will generate a commitment at the lower levels of the state bureaucracy to dissolve the gummed up trivia that slows the regulators down and keeps them from getting to a timely "yes" when it comes to permitted activities.

May God bless Governor Michael Dunleavy and his administration.

Turning to the federal side of the coin, it is impossible to ignore just exactly how much our

Congressional Delegation does for Alaska's mining industry. Whether it is Congressman Don Young, the longest-serving Republican in the House of Representatives, who has always been on our side; Senator Lisa Murkowski, who presides over the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and who protects individual miners with her legislation; or Senator Dan Sullivan who brings his intimate knowledge of Alaska resource development and his strong legal background to bear on matters affecting our industry to his committee assignments, including notably the Environment and Public Works Committee, we have a Congressional delegation to die for. God bless them all.

The federal executive branch, likewise, deserves a round of applause for the efforts it is making. From top to bottom, there is a new ray of sunlight that is shining through, especially in the Interior Department. Currently, we have known allies from top to bottom within Interior.

Although it is not alone, the National Park Service is high on the abuse of office scale. Certainly, we can continue to bemoan the reactionary resolve on the part of the Fish and Wildlife Service to thwart the Izembek Road once again. Likewise, the Bureau of Indian Affairs still requires some attention in ensuring that deference to tribal interests does not get confused with forward-looking resource development. But the brightest light is within the Bureau of Land Management, which has a palpable commitment to the statutory mandate of multiple use of the public domain.

Beyond Interior, there still remains the on-going implosion at the Environmental Protection Agency and the fellow-travelers at the Army Corps of Engineers. Whether they will emerge from the quagmire remains to be seen; however, the pending revision of the rules regarding the Waters of the United States gives us hope. Alaska is unique for its extensive permafrost – which relates to permanently frozen ground which doesn't flow anywhere, and which doesn't pollute anything. Yet somehow, the two agencies just cannot comprehend how permafrost fails to qualify as WOTUS.

The efforts of the Trump Administration to clean house and take the cudgel to those who block the way forward is likewise worthy of a blessing from above.

I suppose there is a certain benefit about what is going on inside (the District of) Columbia these days. The Congress and the Fourth Estate are inextricably fascinated by the foibles of businessman cum President Trump, almost as if this were a problem in search of a solution instead of a solution in search of a problem. Certainly, in the land between the mountains, it barely registers on the give-a-damn scale. While the critics bicker, they are distracted from implementing more horrific burdens on the productive class.

I have often likened progressive politics to a salami slicer in that as the forces of progressivism cut away, the sausage gets smaller and smaller, until there is a risk that there will be nothing left. The Era of the Donald has slowed down the slicing of the State and gives hope that the emergent result will be a stronger nation. It is a good time to be alive in America. Dig we must.

 

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