Murkowski wants ANWR ‘on the table’

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) suggested Wednesday that the bar for her vote on climate legislation is high indeed: She wants oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on the table.

“To secure my vote on a climate bill, we have to develop a good policy. In my mind that good policy would include ANWR as part of a domestic production title,” she told reporters in the Capitol.

Murkowski is considered a potential swing vote in the climate debate.

She has spoken of the threat global warming poses to Alaska, and signed on to a moderate cap-and-trade bill sponsored by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) several years ago (Specter was a Republican at the time).

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are trying to craft a compromise climate change and energy bill that would include emissions limits and expanded domestic energy production – including new oil-and-gas development.

“In my mind, if we are going to really talk about those things that will allow us a greater level of independence when it comes to our oil production, you have got to have ANWR on the table,” Murkowski said.

But if Murkowski were to condition her climate bill support on allowing ANWR development, she would be setting a bar that advocates of a global warming legislation in all likelihood cannot meet.

Opening ANWR hasn’t been seriously play since Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006.

While several major environmental groups are willing to make concessions in climate legislation, keeping drilling rigs out of ANWR has long been a signature goal for the green movement.

Many Democrats strongly oppose ANWR drilling – including Kerry, who for years has been a leading ally of environmental groups on the subject. Lieberman has also been a longstanding foe of drilling in ANWR, which is estimated to hold roughly 10 billion barrels of oil. 

Update: A reader reminds me that Lieberman has actually been at the forefront of efforts to block ANWR drilling, sponsoring repeated bills over the last decade that would keep it permanently off-limits.

This post was updated at 11:23 a.m. on March 4.