09 July 2007

Development / Anti-Development

I'm surprised this offering from Tom Irwin hasn't received more media attention:

Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin today spoke out against the growing trend of anti-resource development initiatives in Alaska, and defended the state's resource permitting and regulatory system as effective, fair and responsible.

"Anyone willing to connect the dots can see that our resource industry is being targeted by multiple efforts to deprive developers of the tools they need to operate in Alaska," Irwin said. "Our Constitution mandates responsible resource development for the benefit of the people of Alaska, and I take significant exception to efforts to interfere with that mandate or the corresponding public process."
Maybe it's not "news" that the DNR Commissioner supports resource development but it does strike me as odd that the commissioner would make this an issue at this particular point. Where he sees roadblocks to development, I really only see hiccups. His list of anti-development initiatives is also surprisingly comprehensive, including our very own Rock Creek mine and the cyanide ban ordinance in Bethel.

Irwin trumpets the state's permitting process, saying it will guarantee the proper result. That, I think, gets to the core of the issue, as, at least in the Rock Creek case, people are not objecting to the mine per se but to the process which allowed the mine to go forward. Process, as I have written before, can be more important than product.

On a similar note, I'm about a week late getting to this, but there was a good Compass piece on the effect of the Habitat Division re-organization during the Murkowski administration:

Recently, Ginger Johnson, board member of Truth About Pebble, the organization devoted to seeing the giant Pebble Mine Project come to fruition, said in the Daily News: "There are strict laws that must be followed for any mine to be built. Pebble will require 67 different permits. There are processes in place to ensure that developments like Pebble mine are safe."

What she and Truth About Pebble neglect to tell us is that those "strict laws" that are supposed to "ensure that developments like Pebble mine are safe" were watered down considerably by the Murkowski administration in order to grease the skids for more resource development like the Pebble Project.

I asked Irwin about the Habitat move this morning (he was commissioner when it was moved after all) and he seemed to indicate the move has worked out fine. He said when he first met with the Habitat folks, he told them to make sure their own concerns were answered but instead of saying no, "figure out how you can say yes" to a project to let them go forward.

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