GOP rips Obama’s bid to block drilling

GOP rips Obama’s bid to block drilling
© Getty Images

Alaska’s all-Republican delegation vowed Monday to fight tooth and nail against President Obama’s proposed drilling restrictions in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The lawmakers lambasted the plan, calling it symptomatic of an administration that doesn’t care about Alaska or about Congress.

ADVERTISEMENT

“This administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but they won’t negotiate with Alaska,” said Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Overnight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse MORE (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, doubling down on a comparison that earned a rebuke from White House adviser John Podesta when she made it a day earlier.

“ ‘King George’ Obama really believes he doesn’t have to acknowledge laws that were passed by the Congress,” joined Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungGOP scores procedural win by securing more funding to enforce Iran sanctions Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz Congress: Pass legislation that invests in America's water future MORE (R-Alaska). “Disgusting for the nation, disgusting for the people. This man, this person, has gone completely wacko.”

The remarks came during a news conference convened a day after the Obama administration announced that it would propose to Congress a wilderness designation — the most protective federal land designation — for the 1.5 million-acre Coastal Plain.

Congress set the area aside decades ago for potential oil and natural gas development.

In the decades since, the prospect of ANWR drilling has triggered national debate multiple times. Oil interests see the area as one of the most promising untapped oil reserves in the country. Environmentalists, meanwhile, see one of the last great wild places — and an opportunity to curb domestic oil production.

The Interior Department announced Sunday it would, without congressional approval, immediately start managing 98 percent of ANWR’s nearly 20 million acres as wilderness while Congress decides whether to expand the wilderness designation beyond the current 7.16 million-acre boundary.

But Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said the legislation would never get through Congress.

“It’s not going to happen in this Congress,” Sullivan said. “So they’re going to move forward with an executive order to do it anyways.”

Sullivan compared it with Obama’s controversial action to reduce deportations of certain undocumented immigrants.

“This is a classic President Obama tactic: release a plan with no chance of passing the Congress. Meantime, take legally dubious action through executive action to do what no Congress would do.”

Murkowski said she heard about the action Friday from Tommy Beaudreau, chief of staff to Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellNational parks pay the price for Trump's Independence Day spectacle Overnight Energy: Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone | UN report offers dire climate warning | Trump expected to lift ethanol restrictions Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone MORE, who did not speak to Murkowski until Murkowski called her.

In addition to the ANWR plan, Murkowski said, the administration is planning two more actions that would hurt Alaska’s oil industry.

This week, the Interior Department will release a five-year plan for offshore drilling that will close off some of the Arctic Ocean waters north of Alaska that had previously been open for leases, Murkowski said.

The agency will also impose onerous restrictions on a permit to build a road through National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, all but preventing oil drilling there.

Interior declined to comment on the offshore drilling and petroleum reserve plans.

“It is a one, two, three kick to the gut of Alaska’s economy,” Murkowski said. “We’re just going to kick you while you’re down, and then we’re going to kick you again, and then we’re going to kick you one more time just for good measure.”

Alaska depends on oil fees for about 90 percent of its state budget. But with oil prices at the lowest point in nearly six years, Gov. Bill Walker (I) said he’ll have to dip into savings to fund services, the state facing a projected $3.5 billion deficit.

Murkowski, who also chairs the Appropriations Committee subpanel for Interior’s budget, said the delegation would “utilize every single tool” it has to fight Obama’s action.

She didn’t say exactly what she would do, in particular declining to comment on the possibility of attaching an amendment to the Keystone XL approval bill that is expected to pass the Senate easily.

“We’re going to fight back, and it’s going to be a coordinated fight. There’s no daylight among the delegation on this,” she said.

In his own statement, Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Trump says US will not sell Turkey F-35s after Russian missile defense system purchase MORE (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, called the ANWR move a power grab of millions of acres of Alaska’s land.

“The president once again ignored the law and trampled on states’ rights in order to solidify his legacy with his liberal base,” he said.

Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopSenators introduce legislation to boost cyber defense training in high school Bureau of Land Management to move headquarters from DC to Colorado Overnight Energy: Democrats to vote on 2020 climate debate | Green groups sue to stop Keystone XL construction | States sue EPA for tougher rules on asbestos MORE (R-Utah) called the president’s actions both hypocritical and irrational.

“This doesn’t just hurt Alaskans, it hurts all Americans in that it stifles opportunities for a better way of life and sends a message to our friends and foes across the globe that our president is more interested in appeasing some of the most extreme elements of his party rather than improving economic outcomes for our own citizens,” he said.

Democrats praised the president for protecting a pristine natural area.

“We should not open up the pristine Arctic refuge to drilling just so oil companies can sell that oil to foreign nations,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyHillicon Valley: Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract | FTC weighs updating kids' internet privacy rules | Schumer calls for FaceApp probe | Report says states need more money to secure elections Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator FTC looks to update children's internet privacy rules MORE (D-Mass.) told reporters Monday.