On Tuesday, the Alaska congressional delegation took part in the second half of the Federal Overreach Summit hosted by an advisory commission under the Department of Natural Resources. The Summit’s stated intent is to look into the history of conflicts between between Alaskans and federal agencies. Organizers hope to use the summit as a means to formulate responses to the conflicts on a state level.
Senator Begich was the first legislator to speak. He said that while fed-bashing is often “good politics” in Alaska, the relationship between the state and the federal government should be one of partnership. He cited the billions of federal dollars that help fund the state budget as part of that partnership. Senator Begich pointed to ignorance by federal agencies regarding Alaskan realities as the cause of many conflicts.
When Senator Murkowski spoke, she shared some of those sentiments, saying that it is important to educate federal agencies regarding Alaska’s priorities and realities. She said that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work, and that in addition to the major issues like the Pebble Mine and timber regulations, that there are many smaller intrusions that impact the lives of individual Alaskans. She shared an example of a small daycare operator who was fined for using a picnic table in Tongass National Forest as an example of what she sees as Washington agencies not acting rationally.
Congressman Don Young spoke third, and took a harder line regarding federal management of land and resources in Alaska. He claims that Alaska has been regulated to the point that it more closely resembles a territory than a state in some regards. He contended that Alaska should challenge government regulation through direct action as well as the numerous legal battles the state has fought.
All three legislators spoke about the oil and gas industry that fuels much of Alaska’s economy, and the role that federal regulation plays in its further development.
The last session of the summit consisted of a roundtable, where representatives from various industries spoke with state legislators and citizens who shared the Summit’s goal of forming a plan of action to govern future interactions with the federal government.