Gov. Sean Parnell listed developing Alaska's resources, specifically mentioning those in Juneau, as one of his priorities, even if that development has to happen over federal government objections.
Parnell received cheers when he claimed credit for the work his and past administrations did in winning approval for the Kensington mine, expected to open later this year after battles that culminated in a crucial victory before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, said Juneau appreciated the great deal of resources the Alaska Department of Law contributed to the successful battle.
"Without that intervention and dedication on the part of the administration, we would not have had a victory," Muñoz said.
Winning approval for Kensington highlighted a strong year for developing mining in Alaska, Parnell said.
"These mines provide good-paying jobs for 1,200 Alaskans," he said.
"It really represents tremendous effort and a lot of support for Kensington and the community of Juneau," she said.
Parnell also mentioned expansions of the Fort Knox and Red Dog mines, and the work on the Donlin project in Southwest Alaska.
He didn't mention the Pebble project, the controversial mine upstream from the rich Bristol Bay fishery.
Muñoz said the failure to mention Pebble was "probably strategic; there really isn't a plan yet with Pebble."
"There's a lot of reaction to what might happen, but we don't really have anything to comment on yet," she said.
Parnell also reiterated his previously announced support for building a road to Cascade Point, saying that money was "already in hand" for the extension of the highway north of Juneau.
"It was nice to hear it, and there's interest in improving the transportation connections to the mine from Cascade. Certainly any continued development to improve our road connections is a positive thing," Muñoz said.
Juneau's new senator Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, heard Parnell talk of the oil industry's importance to Alaska by quoting Egan's father, Bill Egan, who was the state's governor twice.
"Alaska has become established as America's greatest oil province," Parnell said.
"It's different," Egan said in reaction to the statements while leaving the House chambers, where Parnell spoke.
Also featured Wednesday night was Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School student Cora Bontrager.
The seventh-grader will be a member of the class of 2015, and Parnell used her as an example of the kind of hard-working Alaska student who could benefit from his proposed Governor's Performance Scholarship program.
"Cora's family and teachers are proud of her character and work ethic - and those qualities show up in her grade point average," Parnell said.
Parnell has proposed providing additional scholarship money to students with high GPAs and demanding courses, but has found some reluctance among legislators who want to target additional state help to the neediest students.
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at email@example.com.
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