Murkowski, Hoeven tour Alaska, press for expanded drilling

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Murkowski can expect to count on Hoeven’s support, as the North Dakota lawmaker has sponsored a bill to expand drilling in the federally managed Alaskan National Petroleum Reserve. Hoeven said his tour of Alaska will help him better advocate for oil-and-gas exploration in the state, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Republicans have pressed the Interior Department to reverse rules that have kept many federally held lands off-limits to drilling. GOP lawmakers say firms believe that increased access to the North Slope of Alaska could boost energy reserves and create jobs.

President Obama, though, has maintained his stance on Alaskan drilling because of environmental concerns. Drilling in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve, which currently contains about 30 wells, could disrupt wildlife and unsettle villagers, the administration has said. The administration has also expressed concern about the environmental harm from energy exploration in Arctic waters.

But Murkowski over the weekend blasted Washington’s management of oil-and-gas “legacy” wells on federal lands, accusing Washington of enforcing much stricter environmental rules for oil-and-gas firms than for their own operations.

"This is horrid in terms of what our own federal government has done and allowed to happen," said Murkowski, who has pressed for the Interior Department to clean up their drilling fields.

"If you're the federal government, it's apparently just a wink and a nod and somehow the mess is no longer there," she said, according to the Alaska Dispatch.

Murkowski, who is poised to be chairman of the Energy Committee if Republicans gain control of the Senate, has led the push for increased drilling in Alaska, organizing a hearing last month on ramping up efforts in the National Petroleum Reserve.

She will meet this week with fellow Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who will be in Alaska on Monday for a Senate Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee field hearing. Landrieu, along with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, will join Murkowski to discuss the need for more Coast Guard personnel to monitor drilling operations.

Murkowski hopes to pencil in Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) for a trip to her home state, as well. Wyden is likely first in line to receive the committee gavel if Democrats retain a Senate majority, as current committee Chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is retiring.