Dunleavy criticizes Biden policies during multistate conference

In remarks before Ketchikan meeting, gov says Biden ‘canceled’ state projects

Gov. Mike Dunleavy heavily criticized the Biden administration in his opening remarks to the Western Governors’ Association currently holding a workshop in Ketchikan.

Speaking to the conference via video Tuesday, Dunleavy said Alaska’s ability to develop its resources was being stymied by Biden’s policies which he accused of hurting the U.S. and Alaska economies. In a similar vein to statements made in the past, Dunleavy said resource development was an essential component of modern civilization, and that newer, less environmentally-impactful technologies were still dependent on resource extraction. The governor said the president’s policies were undermining efforts to extract resources safely and sending jobs and money overseas, particularly to China.

“You’re going to need resources to take care of these new (renewable) resources,” Dunleavy said. “(Alaska) needs to be able to make our case. It makes absolutely no sense to push these opportunities overseas.”

The Western Governors’ Association is a nonpartisan group of 19 Western U.S. states and three territories. Members include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The workshop in Ketchikan was one in a series called Working Lands, Working Communities, an initiative by the WGA’s current chair, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican.

Dunleavy’s opening remarks came at the beginning of a day of panels discussing the relationships between local, state and federal authorities on topics including resource development, fisheries management and tribal engagement.

Dunleavy lauded the nation’s economic performance during the Trump administration, calling the U.S. “an economic powerhouse,” but said that Alaska’s energy projects have been canceled by the Biden administration. The governor said the environmental standards in Alaska are among the highest in the world, and that the state could develop its resources in a manner consistent with modern environmental standards.

President Joe Biden is currently at a United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, The Associated Press reported, where he released a plan to curtail greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In August the Biden administration reversed a decision by the Trump administration to allow additional drilling on Alaska’s North Slope.

However, AP reported in July that despite overtures at emissions reductions, approvals for companies to drill for oil and gas on U.S. public lands were on pace this year to reach their highest level since George W. Bush was president.

“You don’t send your industries overseas. You don’t send your wealth overseas. You don’t send your jobs overseas,” Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy did not mention which projects had been canceled by the administration, but on Monday, a federal court ruled in favor of groups opposing the Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay, which the governor has advocated for.

The Pebble Mine is strongly opposed by several regional Alaska Native groups, commercial fishermen and environmentalists, and the proposal has attracted national attention. Critics of the Pebble Mine — including Donald Trump Jr. — and other mining projects in Alaska have pointed to the threat that industry poses to the fishing industry, a significant part of the Alaskan economy.

In 2020, environmental journalism group Environmental Investigation Agency published recordings of a series of interviews between Pebble Mine executives and journalists posing as potential investors from Hong Kong.

During one of those conversations, Ronald Thiessen, CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals, the Canadian company behind the Pebble Project, said he was able to contact the chief of staff at the White House of former President Donald Trump, “any time we want,” but he preferred to use the governor to relay information.

“It’s better for us if we want to push that envelope that Tom (Collier) talks to the governor of the state of Alaska and the governor of the state of Alaska picks up the phone and calls the Chief of Staff to the White House,” Thiessen said in the recording.

The governor’s remarks came just a few days after oil industry executives defended the resource industry before federal officials in Washington, D.C., denying allegations from Democratic lawmakers they had misled the public about climate change, The Associated Press reported. ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods told lawmakers the company “has long acknowledged the reality and risks of climate change, and it has devoted significant resources to addressing those risks.”

However, former Exxon employee Marty Hoffert, now an emeritus professor of physics at New York University, has said for years he shared his findings about fossil fuel impacts on climate change but that the information was suppressed by the company.

“What they did was immoral. They spread doubt about the dangers of climate change when their own researchers were confirming how serious a threat it was,” Hoffert told the BBC in 2020.

Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com.