Rep. Chuck Kopp (Courtesy Photo)

Rep. Chuck Kopp (Courtesy Photo)

Opinion: Alaska’s resource future can be a win-win

Alaska is on the verge of its greatest resource production renaissance.

  • By CHUCK KOPP
  • Thursday, March 21, 2019 7:00am
  • Opinion

Recently, several public opinion messages and campaigns have voiced concerns about the mining industry in Alaska. It seems that much of the angst is based on either a perceived favorable bias of the regulatory system toward industry, a bias against natural resource extraction in general or a zero-sum game view that says you must “trade one resource for another” which precludes the possibility of success for more than one resource.

I am grateful this attitude has not defined Alaska’s journey, and I pray it will not define our path forward. I believe Alaska is on the verge of the greatest resource production renaissance in the history of our state and it will only be realized if we come together as one. All resource extraction industries have struggled to overcome enormous obstacles in this last frontier and have evolved into more accountable and effective stewards of our environment, providing excellent jobs for our people.

[Opinion: Alaska can’t afford careless oversight of mines]

Alaska is a paragon for the world because of our long history of mining, oil and gas industries co-existing with fisheries, wildlife and other habitat users. In Cook Inlet, oil and gas exploration, development and production has existed alongside a significant commercial and sport fishing industry for nearly 70 years. Mining and commercial salmon fishing have co-existed in the waters of Southeast for generations. And the North Slope oil and gas industry has demonstrated to the world that polar bears, caribou and other wildlife can thrive alongside one of the world’s largest oil producing basins. We understand that the land and the sea make up one Alaska.

There is no question that the mining practices of the late 1800s and early 1900s were hard on the laborers and the environment. The commercial fishing industry certainly had its dark moments in the history of our state and was one of the prime motivators for statehood. And certainly, the oil and gas industry has made mistakes. Yet we all know that much has changed with these modern industries. Today, you can’t find better regulated, higher performing resource extraction industries anywhere in the world. Alaskans decided to move forward.

I have been commercial salmon fishing in the waters of Bristol Bay and Cook Inlet for nearly 50 years. I remember listening to my father and others from his generation talk with pride about the honor of being able to participate in the rhythm and cycle of this harvest. It was a family business. We were focused and “all-in” physically and emotionally. We enjoyed success and failure, exhaustion and exhilaration — together.

[Opinion: AIDEA is critical to resource development in Alaska]

I was never a miner, but I have dear friends who have devoted their lives to this industry. One recently told me a story of his late father emerging from a mine at the end of a hard day, his face dark with dirt and sweat, a hard hat with an attached light on his head. He said, “the grimace on my dad’s face would break into a smile when he would see us. We were always waiting for him at day’s end. Mining was our family, our life.”

The roustabout crews from the oil derricks in Cook Inlet to the drill pads of the Slope are no different. They live, work and die as a family. These vocations all have inherent risks, and we Alaskans accept and learn from them. We keep moving forward, no matter what.

Today our state university has powerfully connected education to jobs through robust fisheries, mining and petroleum engineering programs because these industries have a great future in Alaska and need a highly skilled workforce.

It is true we have well-founded concerns about local impacts and the need for safe, responsible development of our resources. But I think it is fair to say that most Alaskans want to see mining, fishing and other resource extraction industries be well-regulated and flourish in our state. These jobs provide a sense of self-sufficiency in areas long deprived of careers that offer multi-generational prosperity.

If we are willing to support opportunity, self-sufficiency and purpose’s expansion outside of our own interest, there is no limit to how bright our future will be. Our families and future generations will be the beneficiaries.


• Chuck Kopp is serving his second term as Alaska House Representative for District 24 and is Chair of the House Rules Committee. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.


More in Opinion

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Quality of treatment at Bartlett Regional Hospital is excellent

I recently experienced a relatively serious chest injury and received treatment at… Continue reading

Passengers of the Norwegian Bliss look out across downtown Juneau as they wait to disembark on April 17, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: Juneau’s economy is not on the line — Ship-Free Saturdays is about better balance

Judging by the “Save Juneau” posters one would think that Juneau’s economic… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan addresses a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature in the House chambers on Feb. 7, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Sen. Sullivan sinks to a new low

Last week, Sen. Dan Sullivan mimicked Donald Trump’s endless stream of baseless… Continue reading

Members of local business organizations greet cruise passengers with maps and other handouts as they disembark from the Norwegian Bliss on April 25, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)
A call for collaboration, not restrictions on cruise ship tourism

Please don’t sign. I feel it is time to speak up about… Continue reading

Juneau School District Superintendent Frank Hauser provides an overview of restructuring options being considered during a Community Budget Input Session at Thunder Mountain High School on Jan. 31. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Smearing school board members and the superintendent is vindictive and destructive

A school consolidation plan announced by the Juneau School District (JSD) has… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Gloomy predictions for ship-free days are a misleading scare tactic

“What? Only one day a week ship-free? Can’t we have Sundays too?”… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: A day of rest from cruise ships is good for Juneau

A lot has been said about the Saturday free day from large… Continue reading

Most Read