Alaska senator proposes drilling in Arctic refuge

Alaska senator proposes drilling in Arctic refuge
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Alaska Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves GOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus Murkowski pushes Mnuchin for oil company loans MORE (R) unveiled legislation Wednesday that would, for the first time, open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil and natural gas drilling.

The legislation would require only a 51-vote majority in the Senate, instead of the usual 60 votes, because it is written under the auspices of Congress’s 2018 budget resolution.

The proposal opens a significant new step in the decades-old debate around ANWR drilling, which has energized and mobilized generations of environmentalists while serving as a perennially tempting development opportunity for the oil industry and Alaskans.

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Murkowski estimates that the drilling on the federally owned land would bring the government at least $1 billion over the next 10 years, thus fulfilling the budget’s requirement for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Murkowski chairs.

“Our instruction is a tremendous opportunity both for our committee and our country,” said Murkowski, who has introduced some form of ANWR drilling legislation in each session of Congress since becoming a senator in 2002.

“The legislation I released tonight will put Alaska and the entire nation on a path toward greater prosperity by creating jobs, keeping energy affordable for families and businesses, generating new wealth, and strengthening our security — while reducing the federal deficit not just by $1 billion over ten years, but tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars over the decades to come,” she said.

Drilling would be limited to 1.5 million-acre coastal plain, known as the 1002 area, in the northeastern part of Alaska.

The Interior Department would be required under the legislation to hold at least two sales for drilling rights leases within 10 years.

Murkowski is planing to host a hearing on the legislation Nov. 15.

The rest of Alaska’s delegation applauded the proposal. Alaskan leaders have long supported ANWR drilling, seeing it as a fight for the right to use their own land’s resources.

“I have no doubt that this legislation, which would lead to producing more energy responsibly by opening up the small section of the 1002 area in ANWR, will help make the United States the world’s energy super power again, will dramatically increase our country’s national security and lead to American jobs and productive diplomacy around the globe,” said Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanPelosi, McConnell clash over next coronavirus bill GOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus GOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC MORE (R).

“Alaskans have proven, through tried and tested methods on our North Slope, that resource development and wildlife protection are not and should not be considered mutually exclusive,” said Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Don Young dismissed 'beer virus,' told seniors to 'go forth with everyday activities' Pelosi stands firm amid calls to close Capitol MORE (R).

Greens have been on high alert for ANWR drilling since the Senate first proposed its budget weeks ago.

They see the proposal as a threat to the ecosystem and wildlife of the pristine refuge, especially the porcupine caribou, and a threat to the climate.

“This bill would giveaway Arctic Refuge oil to China and other countries hungry for exports. It would allow roads, pipelines, gravel mines and well pads to be erected across the entire birthing grounds of the Coastal Plain, where caribou calve and where polar bear mothers den,” Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said after Murkowski unveiled the legislation.

Opponents have also challenged the revenue projections the GOP relies upon, particularly with the current glut in the oil market.