Obama adviser chides Alaska senator for criticism of refuge plan

White House adviser John Podesta chided a top senator for berating the Obama administration’s plan to enact more protections against oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s wildlife refuge.

Speaking with reporters in New Delhi during Obama’s trip to India, Podesta said he wasn’t surprised that Republicans vowed to fight against the new restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).


“As we’ve seen, a number of the administrative actions, executive actions that the president has taken under existing laws and authorities that he has ... have been opposed by Republicans in Congress,” Podesta said.

Podesta specifically called out Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiEnergy innovation bill can deliver jobs and climate progress Durbin: Democrats can 'slow' Supreme Court confirmation 'perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at most' Senate GOP set to vote on Trump's Supreme Court pick before election MORE (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, saying her reaction was not warranted.

“We don’t think that the reaction that particularly Sen. Murkowski had to this announcement was warranted,” he said.

“I was hoping that a more balanced reaction would be forthcoming from some of the people who have commented on this.”

Instead, Republicans lambasted the plan to designate the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain as wilderness, blocking oil and gas exploration.

Alaska’s all-Republican congressional delegation called it a “war on Alaska’s future.”

Murkowski called it a “stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive.” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said that “the Obama administration’s war against Alaska families and the middle class would only intensify under the final two years of President Obama’s tenure.”

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said it is “irrational to continue to bow to environmental extremists by taking away opportunities to give our nation energy independence while squashing the futures of local economies.” He called the action hypocritical.

Podesta sought to frame the action as balanced, saying the administration has taken various steps to increase oil and gas exploration, including in Alaska.

“We hope that we can find cooperation so that that wilderness designation ultimately can go through in the Congress,” Podesta said.