WASHINGTON, D.C. – Alaska’s Congressional Delegation and Gov. Bill Walker today denounced President Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for launching an unprecedented assault on Alaska that will have long-lasting effects on the state’s economy and the nation’s energy security.
In coordination with the White House, Secretary Jewell will announce this week – starting today – that she will lock up millions of acres of the nation’s richest oil and natural gas prospects on the Arctic coastal plain and move to block development of Alaska’s offshore resources. The administration is also weighing additional actions in the near future that would prevent new production in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
“What’s coming is 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. Murkowski said. “It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory. The promises made to us at statehood, and since then, mean absolutely nothing to them. I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska. But we will not be run over like this. We will fight back with every resource at our disposal.”
“This outrageous action confirms what most Alaskans have feared – 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. But Alaskans have been in tough battles before. We will defeat their lawless attempt to designate ANWR as a wilderness, as well as their ultimate goal of making Alaska one big national park. This decision disregards the rule of law and our constitution and specifically ignores many promises made to Alaska in ANILCA. It is just one more example of President Obama thumbing his nose at the citizens of a sovereign state – and will put Alaska and America’s energy security in serious jeopardy,” Sen. Sullivan said. “I stand united with Sen. Murkowski, Congressman Young, Governor Walker and the members of the Alaska State Legislature to vigilantly safeguard and defend our fellow Alaskans’ interests, and I pledge to do everything in my power to fight back against this assault on Alaska’s economic future.”
“This callously planned and politically motivated attack on Alaska by the Obama administration is akin to spitting in our faces and telling us it’s raining outside. As if on command from the most extreme environmentalist elements, this president and his team of D.C. bureaucrats believe they alone know what’s best for Alaska, but this brazen assault on our state and our people will do the complete opposite,” Rep. Young said. “Every time the president undermines the law of the land, he breaks his oath of office and weakens the nation we love. This latest move, in clear violation of ANILCA’s 'no more' clause, and despite the fierce opposition of every Alaska statewide elected official and the vast majority of our people, demonstrates that the Imperial Presidency of Barack Obama knows no bounds. Simply put, this wholesale land grab, this widespread attack on our people and our way of life, is disgusting.”
The Interior Department plans to immediately begin managing the 1.5 million acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as wilderness – adding to the 18 million acres of ANWR already designated wilderness. This management status will prohibit even motorized access to the coastal plain.
Gov. Walker was outraged by the Obama administration’s actions at a time when the state is drawing down more than $10 million from savings every day due to low oil prices and declining production despite having more than 40 billion barrels of untapped resources, mostly in federal areas where oil and gas activity is blocked or restricted.
“Having just given to Alaskans the State of the State and State of the Budget addresses, it’s clear that our fiscal challenges in both the short and long term would benefit significantly from increased oil production,” Gov. Walker said. “This action by the federal government is a major setback toward reaching that goal. Therefore, I will consider accelerating the options available to us to increase oil exploration and production on state-owned lands. This further underscores the need for Alaska to become a participant in the infrastructure development for the benefit of all North Slope participants and the residents of Alaska.”
Wilderness status would permanently place off-limits the United States’ most promising onshore oil prospect and severely restrict access for subsistence hunters and other uses of the area. Under the terms of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), additional wilderness designations are barred in Alaska without the express approval of Congress.
Secretary Jewell also said that President Obama plans to indefinitely withdraw areas in the offshore Arctic from oil and gas leasing in the new five-year plan being released later this week, which will effectively ban development in large swaths of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. It is unclear how these new restrictions will affect areas already under lease by Shell, ConocoPhillips and Statoil.
Sen. Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which together have oversight of the Interior Department’s underlying legislative authority, nominations, and budget.
“These decisions simply cannot be allowed to stand,” Sen. Murkowski said. “I have tried to work with this administration – even though they’ve made it extremely difficult every step of the way – but those days are officially over. We are left with no choice but to hit back as hard as we can.”