Rick Whitbeck: Solid Alaska projects, like Manh Choh, Ambler, and AKLNG, balance stewardship, responsible development



Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Alaska must cease its resource development opportunities because we are destroying the planet in the process.

This old argument is once again on full display in the recent opinion piece by Homer’s Marilyn Sigman. In her nearly 800-word attack on Alaska’s economy and Gov. Dunleavy, Sigman deployed fear tactics at three projects critical to Alaska’s future: the Ambler Access Road, the 800-mile liquified natural gas pipeline (AKLNG), and the Manh Choh gold development.

In her attack on the ‘bad carbon math’ allegedly shown by project supporters, Sigman conveniently forgot a few critical details around each opportunity.

First, there is widespread support for each from government leaders, organized labor and private-sector businesses. Second, regarding the Ambler and AKLNG projects, bipartisan congressional and presidential authority are granted, including from Democrats. Third, and most importantly, each would bring much-needed regional jobs, revenues and enhanced energy security to our state and nation.

The Ambler project will hire nearly 1,000 full-time workers, with a local hire preference in-place through the developers’ relationships with regional and village Native corporations. The AKLNG project will add hundreds to private-sector oil and gas jobs, adding to the one-sixth of all Alaskans already working for the oil and gas industry. Manh Choh will keep hundreds of employees working, with approximately 100 new truck drivers joining the mine’s workforce.

The Ambler Access Project, a private, 211-mile road to the Ambler Mining District that has been authorized under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Accessing the world-class mineral deposits throughout the district will enhance the domestic supply chains for ‘green’ energy components, a major goal of the Biden administration. Ignoring the strategic importance of the project is a move only eco warriors would try. The widespread support for this project and its previous authorization should trump climate positioning every time.

Likewise, the AKLNG project incurs Sigman’s wrath because its construction and ongoing operation would generate a carbon footprint. Maybe she has conveniently forgotten that Cook Inlet gas currently powers her Homer lifestyle, including her ability to write her anti-development points. Physics, economics and logic say the Railbelt will never be able to achieve power and heat from renewable energy sources at any significant levels, the AKLNG pipeline is necessary for families and businesses for ongoing power production. The North Slope has enough natural gas to provide the Railbelt with decades of capacity, as well as provide exportable LNG to Asia and Pacific countries. Even the eco-centric Biden Administration understands this, as it has provided the project with federal loan guarantees.

While the Manh Choh project may not have the strategic energy security importance of the two projects above, the regional jobs it is creating in Interior Alaska are significant. Sigman’s argument that trucking the ore from the mine to its processing facility is bad has been used by project opponents since the plan was announced. However, the plan was adjusted throughout the process, as the developer listened to opponents, and the overall plan passed environmental and regulatory reviews. Forcing an onsite processing facility would make the project economically infeasible, thereby denying hundreds of families throughout the area financial stability.

The green utopia envisioned by leading environmentalists is simply not grounded in reality, a lesson our friends around the world are learning the hard way. After previously announcing plans to be carbon free by 2045, Germany recently announced the restarting of coal plants to ease the energy crunch because of the ongoing war in Ukraine. If Sigman and others had their way, we would have no carbon, and – because Alaska will never be able to be run exclusively on wind, solar or other renewables – no heat or electricity either.

While it might be politically convenient in today’s environmental narrative to bemoan projects as “carbon bombs,” it is equally irresponsible to do so. It is too bad that articles like Sigman’s overlook economic benefits and both national and energy security implications, while attempting to scare Alaskans into opposing solid projects that balance environmental stewardship with responsible development at every turn.

Rick Whitbeck is Alaska director for Power the Future.


  1. The problem with Manh Choh is that they are bringing 95′ double-long trailers filled with unprocessed ore right through the middle of Fairbanks. The issues are:
    1. Road safety
    2. Children on school buses
    3. Costs for road repair
    4. Resident driver frustration

    It may be saving the mineral processor and mine owners huge amounts of money, but the real burdens are passed on to the public without direct benefit to them. The highway from Tok to Fairbanks to Clearly Summit is a public hiway, NOT an industrial use hiway.
    This is an ill-conceived project and it is not being received well by Fairbanksans or anyone who lives along the 250 mile hiway route.
    The governor should kill this one, before Alaskans are killed.

    • Seems that the grocery stores using trucks to haul your groceries and restaurant food supplies up the Highway is an ‘industrial use’.

      Seems that all the Modules and whatnot hauled up to the North Slope for 50 years now, has been an ‘industrial use’.

      Seems that when equipment is hauled for the military, that is an ‘industrial use’.

      The plan to haul ore that distance for processing is stunning to contemplate, but it is a legitimate use for the roads, which were not built just so we could sit back and look at them.

      • North,
        “Freight route use” and “industrial use” mean two different things. What other town in America allows monster load 95′ trailers to go through the middle of their towns, passing major intersection lights and pedestrian crosswalks…….at all times of the day …..winter and summer? This is as dumb as it gets. Governor Dunleavy got this one entirely wrong. The Commissioner of Transportation, Ryan Anderson, should be replaced. And Anderson lives in Fairbanks. He should know better.

    • Yes Julia the exact same length as the fuel tankers coming from valdez. Kinross is also paying full board license tag fees, fuel tax ext. what they are doing is completely legal. I find it unbelievable that the ignorant public is trying to dictate what is being hauled down the road. What difference if it’s a load of fuel a load of groceries or a load of dirt. I am encouraging kinross to file a $30 million defamation suit against all the individuals involved in this fiasco and name each one in the law suit. There has been multiple mouth pieces spouting complete lies about this operation . You are about to get called out. This nonsense is adversely affecting the village of Tetlin and hundreds of fairbanks jobs. And NO they won’t be operating their trucks over weight. These $550.000 vehicles are designed to operate a a max weight kinross does not want to destroy their expensive trucks. Enough of this bullshit let’s get people to work.

    • Seems to me “public use” includes industrial and other heavy hauling uses. Your 4 points are your opinion only. Fairbanks cannot support the loss of 700 jobs (Fort Knox). So far, the ore trucks have been traveling at night, avoiding public interaction on “crowded” roads.
      Road repair may be increased, but so will federal road dollars.
      I see no difference between a set of doubles and 22-foot-wide 200-ton modules going up the Steese Highway to access the Elliot and Dalton for the North Slope. We know how to do this.

    • Julia, thats ridiculous.
      The enviro-mental midgets have stopped the creation of nearly every new road project in Alaska for decades and then try to stop all resource development on the basis that there are not sufficient roads.
      As you said, the highway is a public use highway, which does indeed also make it an industrial use highway.
      Road Safety, school buses, and driver frustration go hand in hand with driving on a public highway. This is nothing new and irrelevant to the point.
      Cost for road repair will be paid through taxation.

      • I’m a pro miner and I don’t roll with the Kinross gang and their cheerleader, DOT Commissioner Ryan Anderson. These trucks weigh 160K pounds, twice the weight of a standard 80K highway rig. 700 more jobs to Fairbanks because of a trucking operation?
        I highly doubt those numbers. Even IF, 700 jobs, doesn’t trump the 100K frustrated residents in the FNSB who will be affected by a gold mine 250 miles away. If the gold mine operation in Tetlin is so valuable, then they should do what all other large scale gold mine operators do: build your own damn mill on site and don’t bring your gargantuan ore haulers through downtown Fairbanks. Idiots! And that includes Ryan Anderson.

        • Funny the tankers running the Richardson and parks have 98.000 lbs of product in them. Then add the tanker and tractor. I don’t roll with bull shit artists like you either you mine supporter. Ha

          • Giant ore haulers running right through the second largest town in Alaska. Brilliant! Whoever is running DOT needs to take a Junior High class in logic and common sense. Obviously, he has none.

          • Doug, your argument is disingenuous and outright stupid — you are comparing small apples to giant oranges.

            Show me ANYWHERE in the state of Alaska, any stretch of highway, where those double-trailer fuel tankers are coming and going to the tune of 150 a day.

        • Not ALL of the residents of Fairbanks are or will end up being frustrated by this development. Some people believe in progress, even if they may not ‘identify’ as progressive.

          All of the assertions that have been made in this forum, have lead me to the conclusion that Kinross is likely going to need to impose an engineering control in the name of safety, on the following portion of the proposed operation: decouple the double trailers somewhere east of Fairbanks, and roll single all the way to the mine.

          • North,
            Probably the best single suggestion we’ve heard yet. How about uncoupling the tandems in Tok? That’s east of Fairbanks. No matter how you look at it, Manh Choh is one giant clusterphuque for Fairbanks and North Pole residents. If these trucks roll, tempers will fly off the charts. The DOT Commissioner needs to have his *SS fired!!!

    • Why is that any different than the motorhomes driven by 85 year old tourists who may or may not be trained. These trucks are state of theb art and are specially built to do what they are doing? Why is this any different than the trucks hauling pipe to the north slope or the trucks hauling methane and gas up the Parks? The costs are what the costs are – the trucks will not add to the costs. If Children on school buses are not safe around these trucks then they are not safe around any Fairbanks drivers. No Julia, this is NIMBY-ism at its finest. How about we make all the roads in Fairbanks toll roads? Then you can be nice and safe and not worry about commerce. These roads, that the trucks drive on, are 93% paid by the FHA. And they are to be open to everyone. The governor cannot favor one business over another. You don’t want trucks on your roads – then YOU pay for the roads.

  2. Rick Whitbeck fails to acknowledge the fundamental problem with these “projects”. The AKLNG project is only viable if a large gas line and liquefaction facility are built. The project fails without economy of scale- such as the uneconomic “bullet” line Dunleavy and his puppets support. The bullet line would have such massive costs that Alaskans would pay much more for their energy.

    The Kinross ore hauling fiasco is a disaster for Alaska. Why? The project turns Alaskan highways into industrial ore hauling roads. The pavement of hundreds of miles of our roads will be obliterated over time with a cost to Alaskans to fix/replace of over one billion dollars. Who is going to pay that bill? Not Kinross- but Alaskans with the fuel taxes that they pay for every gallon of gasoline or diesel they buy. The mine demands that we also spend up to half a billion dollars to tear down perfectly good bridges that can’t support the weight of these massive ore hauling trucks. What fiscal conservative could possibly support all this corporate welfare- especially for a foreign corporation?

    As bad is the speed limits on the Richardson Highway will effectively be reduced to 40 miles per hour as the trucks slog their way up the hills.

    Projects that are truly economic without our paying corporate welfare should have our support. At least two of these projects fail miserably in that regard.

    • Listen, Kinross will be paying $2500 year for truck tags $1800 a year for trailer tags $1000 a week in fuel tax per truck . You do the math they are not asking for a free lunch. It’s unbelievable fairbanks is acting like this. There are 60 sets of double fuel trucks on the parks highway daily plus 35 sets of double matson right on parks daily. Slogging up the road as you say.

      • Doug, I do the math, and I’m happy to show my work.

        Say a truck used 1,000 gallons of fuel per week (unlikely). Our fuel tax is only 8 cents per gallon. Can you do the math? That’s $80 dollars a week. (1,000 x .08 cents.)

        100 trucks, paying 80 dollars per week, each, would add up to: $8,000, per week, or $416,000 per year. You’d pay off the $1 billion in road damage in approximately 2,403 years.

        This is a wretchedly bad deal for Alaska. Would you be willing to pay an income tax to pay for the road destruction? You’re are not a fiscal conservative, are you?

        Or would you pay higher taxes to support the roughly half billion its going to cost to replace perfectly good bridges that Kinross wants replaced?

        This is a terrible, terrible deal for Alaskans. Corporate welfare is not in our best interest.

          • You don’t even read your own propaganda Doug? You wrote, “…$1000 a week in fuel tax per truck.”

            300 gallons- at the state fuel tax of 8 cents per gallon is only $24 dollars per week in state fuel taxes- not the $1,000 you claimed. We see who’s providing BS now, don’t we Doug?

            Again, you ready to pay a state income tax to fix the billion dollars worth of road damage this foreign corporation is going to cause to Alaska roads? Kinross sure isn’t going to write the check.

    • Written by someone who doesn’t live here. Ore royalties to the State will go a long way for paying for the road wear – and the feds will get “their” share and pass along more in highway grants. Similarly for AKLNG. Look closely at what we and our Governor are promoting – we know how to do this, do it well, and the numbers work.

      • Rich, I’ve probably lived in Alaska longer than you’ve been alive. You are sadly mistaken about the royalties.

        “Because Manh Choh is not on state lands, no state production royalties or claims rental
        revenue will be paid. ” Mckinley Research December, 2021.

        Even if Alaska were to receive royalties, our royalty take is so low it would never pay even a fraction of the road damage.

        • M, your age must be affecting your thought. Much of the road repair will come through federal dollars from their share of royalties – and the State revenue will be much larger than you suppose. I’m 67 M – seen more than a few winters. Half my life I’ve lived in a Bush village.

  3. Mahn Choh underwent the slimmest of environmental reviews–a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Assessment that didn’t analyze the impacts from trucking. Further, the Governor has been working to manipulate the State Transportation Improvement Project list to replace and upgrade multiple bridges for Kinross at the expense of State taxpayers. Resource development supporters always tout how great Alaska’s environmental safeguards are while the State government is actively working to remove or reduce those same protections. Oh, and the letter written by Mrs. Sigman was from Homer, which means the power supplied to her computer came from the Bradley Lake hydroelectric dam, not Cook Inlet natural gas, but Whitbeck’s columns are always full of false statements and misrepresentations, so nothing new to see here.

    • Listen, Kinross will be paying $2500 year for truck tags $1800 a year for trailer tags $1000 a week in fuel tax per truck . You do the math they are not asking for a free lunch. It’s unbelievable fairbanks is acting like this. There are 60 sets of double fuel trucks on the parks highway daily plus 35 sets of double matson right on parks daily. Slogging up the road as you say.

    • Bradley lake is tied to the inter tie as is Muldoon gas generation plant as is mea s Eklutna gas generating plant as is healy coal plant as is Aurora electrics coal plants. It’s all hooked together not one of these plants standing alone could power the rail belt. Get your facts straight. Good god

    • The slimmest Army core impact statements under the Biden administration ha ha ha. The Same administration that wants to shut our country down… further more that mine is on native private property not state land and not fed land. Native. Myself in excited to see tetlin village residents get great jobs and big dividends from their success. This project has been under exploration and development since 2005. It didn’t happen overnight.

    • Document please. Must call bs – “State taxpayers” will fund bridge upgrades… that need upgrading anyway. BTW, the STIP gets amended at least yearly. Environmental reviews are only slim if they allow development… Seriously, the NEPA process is the most corrupt practice in the entire federal regulation, commonly manipulated to achieve whatever result the bureaucrats and their handlers want.

    • I wonder how the 2009-2010 replacement of the World War II and/or Cold War era truss bridge over the Tanana that lies about 10 miles east of Tok factors into this ‘complex argument’… It is known fact that these old Alaska Hoghway truss bridges that still have the Haines-Fairbanks Pipeline hangers and telegraph lines attached them would be replaced as soon as possible. The Nisutlin Bay Bridge on the Alaska Highway at Teslin Lake is also currently in the process of being of replaced. Time moves on.


    • Both long established freight routes using standard hiway freighters. Not 160,000 lb ore haulers. Get your facts straight.

      • The ore haulers have the same or less tire pressure per tire than any regulation for weight on the roads. The weigh stations are open and there has been no change in weight requirements per axle. There will be more trucks on the road, but insignificantly more damage. Get your facts straight.

    • Rasty, doing it again… The Richardson Highway maintenance and improvement project to bring substandard portions of the highway up to federal standards was in planning long before the brouhaha over Manh Choh.
      The State will receive billions as will the feds, and yes Kinross too, from this development. Hundreds of good-paying jobs are being created, some will be transferred from Fort Knox. The only folks opposed to Manh Choh are the lock-up-Alaska greenies and those who agree with them on anti-development, for which logic and truth are classes they never took..

  4. Rich, you haven’t a clue. Stop with your lies. Normal Alaskans, both Republican and Democrat hate this project because of the numerous problems. Safety. (Hey, industrial ore hauling through dozens and dozens of school bus stops for little kids.) Noise. Thousands of homes will be subjected to this noise- 24/7. Costs- apparently you’ have not heard about the $33 trillion dollar national debt. Hey, its free money as long as its on the US credit card, right Rich? Road destruction- over one billion in road damaged is expected. At least two of the bridges in Fairbanks are perfectly fine- Chena River and Chena Hot Springs Road) and we don’t need to spend hundreds of millions to replace them. But don’t let these facts deter you.

    Rich, do you propose a state income tax to pay for the bridges and road damage?

    • Gotta call BS M. I don’t lie, period. Disagreeing with me does not give you the right to call me a liar. I live in Fairbanks and see both these trucks and the day-to-day activity here. I don’t know of any normal Alaskans opposed to Manh Choh or the ore hauling – at least any of them willing to speak to me about it.
      Manh Choh will pay for itself.
      No, I do not favor an income tax and do support significant cuts in State government and restoration of the lawful full PFD. We can do this.

    • No need for that income tax M – that is a red herring argument and a false accusation. Give it up. You’ve lost this “battle” because you and your ilk are clueless about logic and truth and would rather sling dramatic sound bites, no matter how false, just hoping for some publicity. There are a few “normal” (read that libtard) Alaskans who oppose. Most of us are in favor. I see these trucks daily – they are just another truck – because I live here M, and my truth-telling is backed up by my willingness to out my name on what I write, instead of hiding like a coward.

  5. NIMBY – Not in my backyard
    CAVE – Citizens Against Virtually Everything
    BANANA – Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone

    Bunch of socialists. Even the conservatives who should be free market folks are falling into this BIG GOVERNMENT regulation socialist trap. Especiallly true of those who run the uber conservative web-sites from their Delta Junction Redoubt.

    Wonder if anyone has thought to ask former Senator Gary Wilkins how he made all his money?


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