Politicking by Gov. Jay Inslee and Mayor Ed Murray to stop Arctic drilling is shortsighted and will hurt their own constituents.
AS an American, a U.S. senator and an Alaskan, I’m deeply concerned with the security of our nation and the economic well-being of my state, much of which depends on continuing the historic and mutually beneficial relationship between Alaska and Washington state.
That relationship is strained and put at risk when officials in Washington use Alaska’s economy as a platform to engage in political opportunism.
I’m referring specifically to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s recent actions to attempt to block Shell’s Alaska drilling program by questioning the permit that allows Shell to use the Port of Seattle. Murray said he was doing so “to make a bold statement” about global warming.
Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee, also lobbying to halt Alaska oil exploration, has asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to refrain from issuing any further lease sales for drilling off Alaska’s coast.
While genuine concerns and actions to protect the environment are laudable, it is not laudable to use bold statements about the environment as a means for political grandstanding that could undermine economic opportunities for Alaska, Washington and the country.
The mayor’s actions are being noticed, but it’s probably not the kind of notice that he and other state officials want. Recently, the Alaska state Legislature passed a resolution condemning Murray’s and Inslee’s actions, while highlighting the hypocrisy underlying them. Alaskan legislators — both Democrats and Republicans — suggested that if Washington’s politicians were really interested in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, they should start in their own backyard by protesting Boeing’s operations.
The Alaska Legislature’s resolution noted “the closure of the Boeing production facilities would represent a reduction of 650 aircraft a year that otherwise would discharge more than 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide during the lifetimes of those aircraft and would provide a significant reduction in the release of pollutants into the atmosphere.”
Closing Boeing — a great American company that employs almost 80,000 Washington residents — is certainly not something I advocate. To the contrary, our country needs more world-class companies like Boeing. But there is truth in the underlying message from Alaska’s Legislature, namely that it’s always easier to go after jobs in someone else’s state.
But perhaps the worst part of all of this is how shortsighted the mayor and the governor are acting. In trying to hurt Alaska, they will end up hurting their own constituents.
Alaska and Washington have had a very close relationship since our gold-rush days. My predecessor, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, worked closely with former Washington Sens. Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Warren Magnuson to help pass legislation to preserve, protect and enhance the commercial fishing industry in our states. Stevens, as chair of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, also steered significant federal funds to Sea-Tac International Airport and helped facilitate the expansion of the Port of Tacoma.
Businesses and workers in Washington, including tens of thousands of Seattle’s residents, depend on a strong Alaska economy. A recent report conducted by the McDowell Group, named “Ties that Bind,” found that Alaskan industries accounted for 113,000 jobs in 2013 and generated $6.2 billion in wages in the Puget Sound region. According to a report conducted by the University of Alaska, offshore oil production in Alaska, all told, could produce 35,000 jobs and add billions of dollars to state and national tax bases. Washington would realize a good portion of that economic impact.
Given recent actions, Alaskans are beginning to focus on building up our own port capacity so that we don’t need to rely on the whims of increasingly unreliable Washington politicians.
Bottom line: Not only are the actions of Washington’s politicians potentially harmful to Alaskans, they threaten the well-being of Washington’s businesses, families, the fishing community and union members.
Alaska has some of the highest environmental standards in the world. And as long as we need hydrocarbons to generate power for our cities, our cars and to fly Boeing airplanes, it is wise policy to ensure that we get our energy from America, employing American workers, while also maintaining the highest standards of environmental protection.
We are all proud residents of two great states. And we are also proud citizens of the United States. Our great strength as a nation lies in our ability to eschew ideological and political extremes and work together for the common good.
That’s what our states have done in the past. And that’s what we, Alaskans, are proposing for the future.