Alaska sues feds over Arctic drilling

The state of Alaska has sued the Obama administration for rejecting its plan to explore for oil and natural gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Gov. Sean Parnell (R) on Friday said the exploration plan his administration submitted last year complies with the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and should have been approved. He said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) decision was based on an incorrect reading of the law.

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“It is both disappointing and disturbing that the Obama administration, which claims that it is pursuing an ‘all of the above’ energy policy, is afraid to let the people of the United States learn more about ANWR’s oil and gas resources,” Parnell said in a statement.

“The modern technology that we are seeking to use is responsibly utilized all across the North Slope with extremely limited environmental impact, and would dramatically improve our understanding of ANWR’s resources.”

Alaska submitted its plan to explore in what is known as the “1002 Area” in July 2013, only to have the application rejected two months later by Fish and Wildlife Services Director Daniel Ashe. The area was designated under the 1980 law, and includes about 1.5 million acres bordering the Beaufort Sea on Alaska’s northern coast, FWS records show.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she supports the state’s lawsuit and the underlying application.

“As I have repeatedly said, the agency has clearly lost sight of its responsibility to Alaskans,” she said in a statement. “Any legitimate ‘all of the above’ energy policy must include all 50 states, especially Alaska,” she said, adding that Congress designated the 1002 Area for exploration.

Daniel Sullivan, an Alaska Republican who is seeking to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in this year’s midterm election, also supports the lawsuit.

“Alaskans have heard enough talk from Sen. Begich on the issue of opening ANWR,” Sullivan said in a statement. “His continued reluctance to take on the Obama administration and his fellow Democrats in the Senate majority is troubling, but par for the course.”

Begich favors ANWR drilling, and said he supported the 2013 plan at issue in the lawsuit. But Sullivan accused Begich of not doing enough to get the exploration approved.

The exploration plan calls for using “advanced three-dimensional seismic imaging” that would provide important information about the oil and gas under the area while protecting the environment," Parnell said.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska.

FWS did not respond to requests for comment.