Eben Hopson’s Political Statement
for His Anchorage Press Conference
Upon His Return to Alaska
Thank you for coming to my press conference this morning. I want to thank you all for the way the press in Alaska has reported my Congressional campaign, and for the sensitive treatment that you gave my problem with cancer.
The small, malignant tumor in my throat, I have discovered, has become my biggest political problem. I have discovered that there really is a politics of cancer. I never realized what great public emotional impact cancer has. My political friends, upon whose help I had counted to finance my campaign, have forsaken me because of my cancer. My friends and supporters who seek to raise money for my campaign are repeatedly denied contributions because of my cancer. My political opponents point to my cancer as a reason why I am not worthy for Congressional office. I have come to know the terrible discrimination suffered by people with cancer. It even begins to appear that it will make little difference that I have defeated cancer. It is a disease that causes fear and rejection.
I am happy to report to you that my eight-week course of treatment in Seattle was successful, and I no longer have any clinical symptoms of cancer. My tumor is gone. I will undergo periodic examinations, and at the end of five years, I will be pronounced as finally cured of cancer. I have been fully restored to health. I expect to died fold age, not of cancer, and not for a long, long time.
I want to touch upon some of the issues that I will want to discuss in my campaign. Alaska is in real trouble, and very few people in our State want to talk about it. But elsewhere in our nation, Americans feel that things are going badly in our State, and they are losing confidence in our ability to protect our nation’s wealth here in Alaska. This loss of confidence is a result of the politics of oil in Alaska. The politics of oil is aimed at creating division among our people; to cause us to lose confidence in each other; and to cause us to lose the confidence of others outside our State. For we Alaskans are the trustees of our land. We have special responsibilities of stewardship over our nation’s wealth here. And our nation is losing its faith in our ability to uphold these responsibilities. We stand to lose our stewardship to others. The Federal Outer-Continental Shelf Program is an example of this.
As you know, I worry about the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline. Something seriously is wrong, and I think that it is being covered up. I have never spoken with anyone who has worked on the pipeline who was happy about his experience. Good working men and women are being badly used on the pipeline. There are stories of theft and corruption, and work poorly done. The pipeline is becoming a national symbol of corruption and greed, and it is lowering the moral tone of our entire State. I feel that the pipeline will become the Watergate of the North. If this proves to be true, and there are strong national suspicions, the economic development of Alaska will suffer, and we will lose jobs. It is time to stop winking at the pipeline scandal. If I were elected to Congress, I would do something about it. It is too important a project to botch up.
Because I have criticized the way development is being mismanaged, many people think that I am against development in our State. That is not true. I just want this development to be done in an honest and workmanlike manner. I feel that the Trans-Alaska Pipeline’s construction is not measuring up. for this reason, Senator Henry Jackson has initiated a major investigation of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline’s construction, and I will be commenting upon this investigation throughout my campaign.
In the meantime, I urge Alaska’s journalists to begin talking with Alaskans who have actually worked on the pipeline, and then honestly tell the people of Alaska the stories that you will hear from them. I have heard stories of terrible waste, mismanagement and dishonesty. I have never heard any working man say anything good about the work and workmanship of the pipeline project. The work is so badly managed that it is demeaning and degrading to honest working men. Talk to them. They are not spreading rumors. They are telling the truth. And they worry, for they are getting the blame.
And rather than win Pulitzer prizes for gossiping about the unions to which our workers on the line belong, you might try to win the appreciation of the public by investigating the construction of the pipeline in good journalistic manner. The Alaskan press is failing to learn and report the truth about Watergate and other crimes of the Nixon administration. If Alaska’s press does not learn and report the truth, and it is left to Outside journalists to blow the whistle, Alaska’s reputation will suffer even more than it has up to this point. Have you ever wondered why it is that journalists are not allowed to reside at the construction camps?
The politics of Alaska are no longer the politics of the people of Alaska, but they are now the politics of oil corporations of Alaska. The politics of greed – of deception – of such oil-front organizations as Common Sense, and Individuals for Alaska, financed by oil contractors and vendors and aimed at discrediting Alaska’s political leadership of either party without good pro-oil records. This is dividing our people into factions, and destroying national confidence in our State.
In may campaign, I will talk about holding the oil industry to strict standards of acceptable political behavior. Alaska’s oil belongs to the people, and the oil corporations developing our public land should behave as discretely as we expect of public utility corporations. Honest tax avoidance by the oil industry in Alaska does not require undue political influence. We do not have to stand by and watch the oil corporations take over political control of our State. America will not stand by and watch. Either we Alaskans will run our State, or others will.
The politics of oil is causing the Federal land freeze to inhibit the normal economic development of Alaska. Land selection under the terms of the Alaska Native Land Claims Act has taken on the aspect of a poker game. This is causing racial hatred and division. Native leaders are being alienated from the village people they represent, and hatred is spreading. All this because of the willingness of the oil industry to use its wealth for social, economic and political manipulation. All over the State we are at each other’s throats, and this is becoming true in the Canadian Arctic. This has got to stop. I want to do something about it.
Land has become the symbol of racial and social division in this State, where it used to be the single greatest unifying influence for all Alaskans – the unity that made Statehood possible. We need to get serious about lifting the Federal land freeze so that our people can unify on the land once again. If I am elected to Congress, I will work to open up Federal and to homesteading once again. Most Native leaders are against homesteading because the Land Claims have not been implemented; land selections have not been made, and they fear homesteading will encroach on the values of Native land. I feel that homesteading in Alaska should be an important consideration when selecting State and Federal lands under the terms of the Land Claims Settlement. Homesteading need not encroach on Native lands if planned properly. There is room for people in rural Alaska. A good homesteading law might be the secret to successful land management and environmental conservation in rural Alaska. rural Alaska needs more people who live on, love, and cherish our land. Homesteading would help us restore Alaska’s politics to the people.
As you know, I have been a critic of the plans of the oil industry in the Beaufort Sea. Again, many have branded me as anti-development because of this. I am not against oil and gas development in the Arctic. We Inupiat people have gained great financial and political strength because of our Arctic oil and gas development. To be honest with you, we in the Arctic are not happy about major oil and gas development, and we are fearful of off-shore development. But, we understand that this development is necessary, and I, for one, want to cooperate closely to insure that this development is done right. We can all benefit from development as we deliver to America her wealth that lies in our land, and beneath our seas. We are stewards of this wealth, and it is our responsibility to deliver it to all of America’s people when they need to draw upon it. But we must be careful to distinguish need from greed.
Greed leads to imprudence, and imprudent behavior in the Arctic leads to disaster. If the oil industry is allowed to make the mistakes that it plans to make offshore in the Beaufort Sea, mistakes like the Dome Petroleum OCS Exploration in Canada’s Mackenzie Bay, the orderly development of our Arctic reserves will be delayed for many years – needlessly. And our cities will suffer – needlessly. We must be careful in the Beaufort Sea. The oil industry is not being careful enough. Just last week the Dome Petroleum Beaufort Sea OCS Drilling Project encountered its first blow-out. Fortunately, oil had not yet been struck. Had oil been struck, oil would be flowing under the ice in the Arctic Ocean for the next one, maybe two, years, with devastating results.
I have been impressed with Governor Hammond’s approach to the entire OCS Program. I am in favor of his request to Secretary Kleppe for a cooperative State/Federal near-shore Beaufort Sea OCS lease sale next year. Working from the near-shore, we can work closely with the oil industry as its learns through experience how to safely explore the Beaufort Sea and lift the oil out from under the ice. For the ice is a dangerous, churning continent constantly moving with irresistible force. Only on the near shore is the ice quiet and motionless.
The sooner we being dealing with Arctic off-shore problems, the better; and the sooner we can begin pumping oil from under the ice into the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
But the development of the Arctic is not up to America alone. We share the Arctic with four other nations, and we share the Beaufort Sea with Canada. The Federal OCS Program plans to lease in the Hope Basin the Chukchi Sea, a sea we share with the Soviet Union. Our North Slope Borough is bound by both of these seas. Surely it is obvious that all Arctic off-shore development must follow a single set of rules if our international Arctic environment is to be protected properly. If I am elected to Congress, I would work toward an international Arctic resource development agreement with Canada and Denmark, countries immediately impacted by the Arctic ice cap, and countries who would suffer most from the mistakes of their neighbors off-shore.
Following that, I would press for an international Arctic Seabed Treaty to enable the safe extraction of oil and gas from under the international Arctic ice cap. And I would seek financial assistance to develop safe and proven Arctic off-shore technology to hasten the day when under-ice oil and gas operations could be conducted safely.
I regret that our incumbent Congressman has voted against coastal zone management and OCS reform legislation, and has failed to work to secure the rights of Alaska’s State and local governments in all OCS development planning and execution.
I feel that the present OCS Program of the Federal government is a step back into the yesterday of Territorial tyranny against which we struggled for Statehood. This is the program that is being supported by our present Congressman. If elected to take his place, I would work hard to pass legislation – special OCS legislation just for Alaska – that would delegate the entire OCS Program in Alaska to the State of Alaska and a federation of coastal municipal governments. And I would insure that the Arctic shelf was developed in close cooperation with Canada, and the U.S.S.R. I do not want any arguments in the Arctic.
It was toward these objectives that I began the planning that will result in the first Inuit Circumpolar Conference. I have consulted with my colleagues in Canada and Greenland, and we have agreed to reschedule this conference for the week of June 13, 1977. Because of the heavy response to this planned conference, we decided to let out a little line on this project to make sure we pull it off properly. It is my hope that this conference will lead to formal international Circumpolar community organization through which both the oil industry and governments can work to agree on a single set of rules for all Arctic resource development, with emphasis on such overlooked things as gravel, water, game, and cost-cutting cooperation between nations, and within the oil industry. The Arctic is no place for the cut-throat competition that I am told exists between oil corporations making up the oil industry. The Arctic is public land. We can impose order and cooperation on our own land. Alaska is not Texas, with predominantly privately-owned land. Survival in the Arctic depends upon cooperation. Only if all parties work together closely can the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean be developed safely.
You know, in the long run, it will be the water in the ice that will become more precious to us than the oil beneath the ice of the Arctic.
I ran for Congress because I have not heard anybody in Washington talk about the dangers that face us in my Arctic homeland. Yet, I know that these problems are world problems. Our present Congressman has failed to lead. Rather, he is led by others. He follows those I would not follow. Rather, I would lead them. Our present Congressman initiates nothing at a time when Alaska must seize the initiative, or slide back into the oil Territorial status.
What would such a status mean? Look at the Southeast. Southeast Alaska is in a severe economic recession while our State is distracted by the wealth of the North. We are neglecting our most beautiful and productive region of Alaska. Unlike oil and gas, the resources of Southeast Alaska are perpetually renewable. Ketchikan faces a serious economic crisis with which our Congressional delegation is providing no help. If I were in Congress, I would work hard to overcome the reasons for the closure of the Ketchikan Pulp Mill, and I would promote capital formation to improve and build new forest products industries, for the long-term wealth of Alaska is in her forests and waters. And I would insure that reasonable environmental safeguards were maintained geared to the actual need and conditions of Southeast Alaska. I just can’t understand why Southeast Alaska is in recession, but I know we had better to something about it.
My campaign has encountered its problems. I am sure that I have added to these problems by saying some of the things I said in this statement. But at this point, noting that I say or do can cause me to lose this campaign. This campaign will afford me the opportunity to tell the truth about what is happening in Alaska, and to propose solutions to problems that others refuse to even admit exist. I am free to say anything that I perceive to be true. In intend to use this freedom responsibly, and I hope that it will win for me the support that I need to come from behind in this race to replace Don Young as Alaska’s Congressman.