Parnell’s Arctic “roads to resources” plan is misguided spending

Mar 29, 2012

Who wants a free driveway? Please raise your hands.

You can’t get a free driveway from the state of Alaska, but state officials want to offer an even sweeter freebie to private oil, gas, and mining companies in the form of expensive, Arctic “roads to resources.”

Using money from the state’s General Fund – rather than relying on thecustomary 90% federal/10% state split for roads – Gov. Sean Parnell plans to spend up to $2.4 billion to build three roads that would provide only speculative benefits to the state.

A new report issued today by three public interest organizations, titled “Easy to Start, Impossible to Finish II: Alaska Spends Millions on Arctic Roads without Financial Plans to Complete the Projects,” provides detailed information on proposed roads to Umiat, Nome and Ambler.  The report calls for starting only projects that have a reasonable expectation of enough resources to be completed, carefully analyzing revenue claims associated with the projects, and re-evaluating projects when significant adverse facts become available.  The organizations issuing the report are The Wilderness Society and the Alaska Conservation Alliance in Anchorage, and the Northern Alaska Environmental Center in Fairbanks.

“These billions in state dollars should go to higher priority uses such as fixing existing transportation infrastructure, education, municipal revenue sharing and other important state needs,” said The Wilderness Society’s Lois Epstein, an Alaska-licensed engineer and primary author of the new report, as well as a similar report in 2010.

"If you need a new driveway, you have to pay for it out of your own pocket. But if you own millions of dollars’ worth of drilling or mining equipment, the state is willing to save you enormous amounts of money by building a road for you,” stated Pamela A. Miller, Arctic program director for the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.

“Road projects need to be prioritized by how they benefit Alaskans and our communities, and not by how well they serve private interests,” said Andy Moderow, executive director of the Alaska Conservation Alliance. “Gov. Parnell has yet to explain how the Road to Umiat - a project with negative community impacts - is a higher priority than safety upgrades to our highways.”