In his annual address to the Alaska State Legislature Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, called on the administration of President Joe Biden to lift regulations on energy and resource projects in the state and allow for the expansion of oil and liquid natural gas development.
Sullivan began his speech by invoking the late Don Young, Alaska’s only member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the better part of five decades, and said his address would be about where people from all political parties could work together.
But Sullivan’s address was deeply critical of the president and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland — who is in the state this week — for environmentally-focused policies he says limit American energy production and increase the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
“I won’t sugar coat it,” Sullivan told a joint session of the Legislature. “My relationship with Sec. Haaland has been strained. I’ve called her numerous times reminding her of her pledges that she gave me. I’ve let her know that many actions taken under her leadership are hurting our people.”
Sullivan said the administration’s restrictions in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, the Ambler Mining District and other oil and liquid natural gas projects were limiting Alaska’s economic production and giving a lifeline to authoritarian countries such as Russia and China who continue to produce those resources. Citing the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Sullivan said the world was in a new era of authoritarian aggression and that Alaska could serve both the U.S. and its allies by providing energy and mineral resources currently sourced from outside the U.S.
“I believe Alaska has an enormous role to play in ensuring that America prevails in this new era of brutal dictatorships versus democracies,” Sullivan said. “Think about what we have; incredible strategic location, a very lethal military —we just received our full complement of F-35s to (Eielson Airforce Base) last week, making our state the only place in the world with over 100 5th generation fighters. We have our world-class energy and mineral resources that can supply America and our allies for decades to come.”
But the Biden administration’s energy policies combined with the threat of lawsuits from “radical, extreme Lower 48 environmentalists and radical judges here and elsewhere,” were preventing projects from moving forward, Sullivan said. Federal permitting of new projects needed to be streamlined, Sullivan said, noting the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year included language for permitting reform.
Sullivan said the federal government should become a partner with the state of Alaska to develop its natural resources, and said the U.S. should try to increase domestic production of all goods in an effort to reduce dependence on foreign, often authoritarian governments. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is a U.S. Department of the Treasury committee that reviews certain transactions from foreign persons and Sullivan said there has been a push to use the committee to review transactions of American companies investing abroad.
“Right now there’s a bipartisan push to do what’s called outbound CFIUS, that means when big investment banks and other things are investing in China, supply chains in China, artificial intelligence in China,” Sullivan said in a meeting with reporters. “We are now saying we’re going to set up a panel of government experts to decide whether or not you, American private equity firm, you American Wall Street firm, can do that.”
Sullivan said he hopes to have conversations with Haaland about the state’s resources during her visit.
But Sullivan was also deeply critical of Haaland for lack of action on land transfers to Alaska Native veterans of the Vietnam War era. A decades-long effort by Alaska Native veterans to obtain lands promised to them under a 1906 law moved forward in 2019, but was halted when the Biden administration ordered a review of executive orders issued by former President Trump.
The Bureau of Land Management has said lands are still available and eligible veterans can submit applications, though some veterans have complained at the amount of time it’s taken as well as the location of the lands made available. Sullivan said any further delays by Haaland would be “shameful.”
“She better not come up to Alaska and do some kind of spin move,” Sullivan said in a meeting with reporters. “An announcement of an (environmental assessment) would be a stab in the back to our Alaska Alaska Native Vietnam veterans.”
According to Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Jim Hart, a draft environmental assessment is currently under review and a decision is expected to be announced later this month.
In an email, Tyler Cherry, spokesperson for Haaland’s office declined to comment.
Sullivan gave a similarly critical speech in 2021, which led Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, and other Democrats to release a letter condemning the partisanship of the speech. On Twitter Monday, Sen, Elvi Gray-Jackson, said she saw similar partisan rhetoric and misrepresentations.
“He now expresses bipartisanship in his address today and that we must work together, but his actions continue to speak otherwise,” Gray-Jackson said, citing Sullivan’s refusal to vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Gray-Jackson recently became the first Black woman in Alaska to file to run for the U.S. Senate to challenge Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, but shortly after announced her campaign was ending after not meeting fundraising goals.
“Not only did Senator Dan Sullivan deny the qualifications of Ketanji Brown-Jackson by voting no, he also gladly upheld divisive politics by actively supporting unfound, hurtful, and divisive rhetoric,” Gray-Jackson said. “This is coming off the heels of Senator Sullivan supporting two of the most controversial Supreme Court nominees in recent history.”
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.