From the Editor

In February federal authorities delivered two decisions on projects long under development: no for Pebble, yes to Willow.

When determinations like these are made, my inbox is flooded with emails from interested parties and key stakeholders lauding or lamenting the announcement.

In the case of ConocoPhillips Alaska’s Willow project, a North Slope development estimated to produce approximately 180,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak, most of the press releases that jammed my inbox commended the US Bureau of Land Management’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), which indicated there is a federally permitted path to production. A joint release from the Iñupiat Community of the North Slope, North Slope Borough, and Arctic Slope Regional Corporation stated: “The elected regional Iñupiat leadership of the North Slope encourages the Biden administration to move forward with final approval for Alaska’s Willow Project… As the final SEIS signals, advancing Willow is critical for domestic energy independence, job security for Alaskans, and the right of Alaska Natives to choose their own path… We know our lands and our communities better than anyone, and we know that resource development and our subsistence way of life are not mutually exclusive. The new economic activity initiated by Willow will strengthen our region’s economic foundation and make possible the continuation of our Iñupiaq culture and way of life.”

In contrast, the reaction to Pebble was mixed. I received an equal number of press releases condemning and praising the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) decision. It’s not surprising: the Pebble mine has been a highly controversial project for years, and for good reason. Most look at development at Pebble as choosing between copper and gold or fish—and they’re all good things to have. The question is, of course, does the risk make sense?

According to the EPA and many who live in the region, it does not. Bristol Bay Native Corporation’s President and CEO Jason Metrokin stated in response to the announcement: “Today is a great day for Bristol Bay, and one that many thought would never come… EPA’s Final Determination is confirmation that Bristol Bay is a special place and Pebble mine represents a unique threat to our region, economy, and way of life.”

Part of being an editor is selecting what facts and opinions we publish. In this instance, the opinions that I chose to include in this letter are those that I feel are the most pertinent: the views of those who must live with the project in their backyard.

This publication supports responsible development. But who decides if a project is responsible? Tons of people. Alaska is a checkerboard of federal, state, and private ownership, rich with resources and crisscrossed by innumerable bodies of water. Major projects require feedback from local communities, state officials, and federal regulators. “Is it responsible?” is a question that’s been explored for years, maybe decades, through data collection and analysis and public input. No significant project in Alaska has not had that question applied to it liberally and repeatedly.

The decisions for Willow and Pebble are a comfort to some and a disappointment to others. In my position at this magazine, I find deep satisfaction in knowing that we support the Alaskans who advocate for the right process, every time.

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Tasha Anderson
Managing Editor, Alaska Business