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Alaska Senator: We Can’t Build ‘a Simple Road’ Without ‘Radical Extreme Environmental Groups’ Suing Us

By Mark Jennings | July 1, 2019 | 9:59 AM EDT

Members of Congress who claim that building “a simple road” in his state will harm wildlife, like the porcupine caribou, “don’t know what they’re talking about,” Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan (R) told in an exclusive interview last Wednesday.

“No offense to my colleagues here, but they don’t know what they’re talking about,” Sen. Sullivan said. “There was this notion that the porcupine caribou herd was going to be hurt by a road – that’s literally absurd. That was the big thing that everyone was saying when we built the trans-Atlantic pipeline system and the caribou herd increased four-fold.”

“So, a lot of this, unfortunately, I think is driven by their desire to fundraise and environmental groups’ desire to fundraise off this kind of stuff, so it’s a never-ending battle,” Sullivan said.

“These issues pop up on a regular basis, where you have, you know, my colleagues, but to be honest, most of my Democratic colleagues who take a lot of interest in what I think is shutting down building infrastructure, resource development in my state,” Sullivan told “It frustrates me and it’s kind of across-the-board in a number of issues.”

“The irony, of course, is that Alaska has the highest environmental standards of literally, probably anyplace in the world – for resource development, for oil and gas development, for mining, for building roads. And yet, as I like to say, we’re a resource-rich, but infrastructure-poor state,” Sullivan said.

“Whenever you try to just build a simple road in Alaska – most Americans just take that for granted – but we’ll have, several what I would consider radical extreme environmental groups sue to stop it. Happens all the time.”

In June, Sen. Sullivan shared a Twitter video from a meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee highlighting his frustration with how environmental activists and some of his colleagues’ attempt to obstruct construction of infrastructure in his state.

During the hearing, Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) claimed that a proposed plan to build a road in Alaska would have “a huge impact” on the migration of the western Arctic caribou and told Sullivan he expected him to “work with us to make sure that damage does not occur.”

Committee member Sullivan responded by saying he was astounded that the Massachusetts senator singled out Alaska when Markey’s home state is much smaller, but still has three times as many roads.

“Unfortunately, radical environmental groups always do this ‘Oh, my God, everything’s going to die,’ when you build a road, a damn road,” Sullivan said, “In most states, you can build a road anywhere you want. You don’t have 80 environmental groups suing to stop it, but in my state, you try to build one damn road, and you’ll have so many outside groups that don’t care about my constituents suing to stop the road.”

The state of Alaska has some unique infrastructure challenges. It is the largest state in the nation, two and a half times the size of the second-largest state (Texas), and almost 500 times the size of Rhode Island, the smallest state. Most of the state is wilderness, and its major cities tend to be far apart. Its largest city, Anchorage, is almost 600 miles away from its capital of Juneau and over 350 miles from Fairbank. In spite of this distance, or perhaps, because of it, there are very few roads connecting the major population centers.