Speaking to a roomful of Republican Party faithful in Kenai, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens on Friday linked the very purchase of Alaska from the Russians with the type of change this year's presidential candidates are advocating.
"Everyone's calling for change," Stevens said to about 125 people attending the Kenai Peninsula Republican Women's Lincoln Day dinner at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai.
"Republicans have made a lot of changes in this state," he said, adding that it was Republican President Abraham Lincoln's secretary of state, William Seward, who effected the purchase of the Alaska Territory from the Russian Empire, though the sale in 1867, was not finalized until two years following Lincoln's assassination.
Stevens covered a range of issues during his keynote address in which he informed attendees of his plans to once again seek re-election to his Senate seat, a seat he has held since 1968. Stevens is the longest-serving senator in the history of the Republican Party.
Speaking on domestic issues in Alaska, Stevens said the proposed natural gas pipeline from the North Slope "will bring the attention of the world to our state and its resources." He indicated that attention is worth more than the natural gas itself.
Earlier in the day, when he arrived at Kenai Municipal Airport, Stevens said, "Washington is really worried about getting state action (on the pipeline) completed.
"We're a little worried about a 2013 start date," he said.
"At least five federal agencies are involved. Permitting would take 18 months, and pre-permitting is what we're talking about," Stevens said, listing the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency as some of the federal agencies that will need to give a green light to the pipeline project.
"We want them to get to work as soon as possible," he said.
Because the state of Alaska owns the land, the state needs to move first, he said.
"The final licensing is a federal action, not a state action," Stevens said.
When asked for his position on the Pebble Mine project, he said he has not yet seen a plan he would support.
"The state Legislature could enact a law to control Pebble," Stevens said. "I don't know if that's doable.
"The Bristol Bay run is the largest salmon run in the world," he said. "That run is under attack from natural sources; it shouldn't be from us."
Stevens said he visited with some "old timers in Fairbanks," who told him they tried to recover the Pebble gold 50 years ago, but did not have the means "to get at it." Their recommendation, he said, is to mine it in numerous small projects rather than as one massive mine site.
Talking about calls for listing several Alaska mammals as endangered, Stevens said flatly, "They're all fake.
"They're all designed to raise the flag over high gasoline use in California contributing to (carbon dioxide) emissions. Our research in Fairbanks disagrees that there's a species threat.
"It's a habitat threat," Stevens said. "That's not covered under the Endangered Species Act."
Referring to computer graphics from the university center, Stevens said while polar ice above Alaska appears to be receding, "polar ice is now greater than ever in Greenland."
"The (ocean water) surface temperature is the same. It's warmer down below. Something's happening down there, but we don't know what," Stevens said. "The currents coming in from the Atlantic and Pacific are moving the ice.
"Our people at the university believe we should wait and see what happens. Our university center says it's global climate change," he said.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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