Skip to main Content

Alaska can be both steward and developer in Arctic refuge

  • Author: Bill Walker
    | Opinion
  • Updated: November 3, 2017
  • Published November 3, 2017

This past week, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and I were pleased to join our congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., to provide testimony to the Senate Energy Committee. The four-hour hearing – chaired by Sen. Lisa Murkowski – was to explain the major benefits that can come to both Alaska and the nation from responsible development in the 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Our entire congressional delegation deserves praise for the tireless work they've done as it relates to the 1002 Area. A critical part of this process is for us to work with those potentially impacted from this development to minimize or completely eliminate any impact to their region.

In my testimony, I described Alaska's unique foundation of resource ownership and development as set forth in the Statehood Compact and Alaska Constitution, and how the 1002 Area is a key part of that statehood promise.  Lt. Gov. Mallott described the successes and improvements that the state has seen from safely developing our oil over the last 50 years.

I also explained how Alaska is different, and how responsible resource development is in our DNA.

The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge stretches away to the north and east of the Canning River as it flattens out between the foothills of the Brooks Range and the Beaufort Sea, March 20, 2001. The river serves as the western boundary of the coastal plain. (Erik Hill / Anchorage Daily News 2001 archive)

Alaska has perhaps never faced such significant fiscal needs as we do now, and we must tap into every source of economic activity for additional revenue. A necessary part of this is doing what we have done successfully for decades: safely overseeing oil and gas exploration and development. A complete fiscal plan with new revenues that eliminates our budget gap in its entirety is a critical component to securing the future for Alaskans.

The development in the 1002 Area of ANWR, while up to 10 years away from drilling activity, would be an incredible boost to Alaska's economy, even as we continue to look for ways to diversify our revenue streams. Today, when we see oil prices significantly off the highs of a few years ago, we have still had very successful state and federal lease sales. For ANWR, where promise and potential may exceed these areas, we would expect industry to be very eager to establish a position and generate significant revenue for the state and federal government.

These interests at stake are significant over the long term as well. Government estimates are that oil production from federal lands in the 1002 Area could generate billions of dollars per year in royalty and tax revenues for Alaska over the potential 40-plus-year life of the basin. This money could be used to build roads and bridges and schools, fund health care, and educate the next generation of enterprising souls who call this great state home.

I frequently hear of the challenges climate change brings, and how we should cease all development now in response. As governor, I must face these issues, and just this week I signed an administrative order to continue our efforts to provide solutions to the impacts of climate change – but we cannot hobble this state and deprive it of the resources and revenue it needs as we plan for the future.

Alaska stands at a fiscal crossroads: More than ever, we need a fiscal plan that completely eliminates our budget gap. Even as we work to bring in new revenues, for the time being, resource development remains a significant portion of the state's economy. Filling TAPS has been a goal and priority of my administration, and opening the 1002 Area of ANWR can help us plan for that future even as we work to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, and seek to build a stronger Alaska.

Gov. Bill Walker has served as governor of Alaska since 2014.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email Send submissions shorter than 200 words to