Congress Must Not Break Trust With Alaska And Its Indigenous Peoples

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The United States bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, but that was not the end of the deal.

A little over a century later and a decade after Alaska became the 49th state, what would become North America’s largest oil field was discovered in 1968 at Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope. .

The discovery and the need for an 800-mile pipeline to develop it gave new urgency to the settlement of native lands not only along the proposed corridor, but throughout Alaska. Negotiations that had progressed in spurts throughout the 1960s culminated 50 years ago with the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971, which included the selection of 44 million acres and nearly ‘$ 1 billion for the regional companies created in the bill.

Some of ANSAA’s promises have been kept, while others have yet to be kept. Now in Congress, the Democrats are trying to break one of them in their budget reconciliation bill.

Congress pledged economic freedom for the indigenous village of Kaktovik under ANSCA through the formation of the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation. The first step in keeping that promise was finally taken 46 years later with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Democrats’ bill would repeal the 2017 provision requiring the sale of leases for the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, explicitly reserved for development in the 1980 Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act . It would also revoke leases bought by the state of Alaska last January during the first of these sales.

On President Joe Biden’s first day in office, in the Executive Order that canceled the Keystone XL pipeline license, there was another section ordering a moratorium on all activities in the Coastal Plain of the ANWR to reverse the sale of legal lease that had taken place earlier this month.

In the process, the actions of Biden and the Congressional Democrats will not only increase our trade deficit, end our energy independence, and weaken our national security, but will also deprive Alaskans of economic opportunities and sever trust with landowners. aboriginal people by denying them billions of dollars in royalty revenues.

The indigenous village of Kaktovik, the only community in the interior of the coastal plain, actively participated in the process of preparing the environmental impact assessment for the coastal plain oil and gas rental program. The Biden administration’s stated goal is to “strengthen tribal consultation,” but it rejected this consultation with the Coastal Plain tribe alone because it did not fit the administration’s narrative.

Kaktovik and Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat support the rental program, and they are frustrated with recent decisions to undermine their participation in tribal consultation and government-to-government engagement.

The actions of Biden and the Congressional Democrats to reverse progress in meeting federal obligations are not only bad, they are an injustice.

Their actions are also at odds with Democrats’ goals of reducing carbon emissions.

With prices at their highest for seven years, we are importing more oil from Russia than ever in US history, according to the most recent data from the Energy Information Administration. Average imports from Russia per month so far in 2021 are 22 million barrels, 34% more than in 2020 and 18% more than in 2010, the previous record for a year (at 18 million barrels). barrels per month). We have already imported more oil from Russia this year than in 2017 or 2018.

Not only are we making President Vladimir Putin and his oil cronies rich, but we are also supporting their production from the very Arctic that Democrats are trying to lock up in Alaska.

Thirty percent of the oil production of the state-owned Gazprom comes from arctic fields, and there is much exploration and development activity in the Russian arctic, both on and at sea, that Drivers are now funding at the pump thanks to the policies of the Biden administration backed by his friends in Congress.

On top of that, recent court rulings have delayed North Slope projects under rulings that require modeling the impacts of downstream carbon emissions, but our own government does not stick to the same standards for carbon imports. foreign oil. Why not?

Neglected or ignored is the fact that the practices of flaring or venting natural gas to produce oil are illegal in Alaska under state law. A 2020 Climate Leadership Council study determined that North Slope energy production is “cheap in carbon” and has lower emissions than lower and global averages.

Maintaining trust with the people of Alaska is a federal government demand, and encouraging cleaner American production that benefits those close to them is consistent with all of our goals of environmental, social, and economic justice.

The Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, the Indigenous Village of Kaktovik, the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation and the State of Alaska are united in defending our rights under federal law guaranteeing self-determination and the ability to provide economic opportunities for the people we represent.

These rights would be erased under the Budget Reconciliation Bill and Home Office actions, and we urge members of Congress to reject these destructive policies in the name of indigenous rights, environmental justice and justice. racial equality.

Mike Dunleavy is the 12th Governor of Alaska. John Hopson Jr. is the president of Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, a network between communities on the Arctic slope. Its members include the indigenous village of Kaktovik and the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation.


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