The all-Republican Alaska congressional delegation, led by a spirited Sen. Lisa Murkowski, blasted President Barack Obama’s proposals to declare new areas of Alaska National Wildlife Refuge off-limits to oil production saying it amounted to an economic kick in the gut to the fiscally troubled state.
At a Capitol news conference, they vowed to do everything they can to block the plan.
“This administration has effectively declared war on Alaska,” Murkowski said, blaming the White House for bowing to pressure from liberal environmentalists. “We will not stand for it, we will not tolerate it and we will do everything we can to push back against an administration that has taken a look at Alaska and decided it’s a nice little snow globe up there and we’re going to keep it that way.”
Murkowski, who as chair of both the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and an appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Interior, will exert much influence on any congressional legislation. She promised to use budgetary and legislative tools on the Hill to block the proposals, as well as go to the courts to sue.
“This is not something where as a delegation, as a state, we’re going to accept what the administration is proposing here.” Murkowski said. “We’re going to fight back.”
The plan, which Obama announced on Sunday, would set aside 12 million acres of ANWR, on Alaska’s northern coast, and make other policy changes that would make oil development tougher in Alaska. The issue of energy development in ANWR has been debated for decades.
“Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge is an incredible place – pristine, undisturbed. It supports caribou and polar bears, all manner of marine life, countless species of birds and fish, and for centuries it supported many Alaska Native communities,” Obama said in a White House video in which he asked Congress to vote on the issue. “But it is very fragile.”
Murkowski said the proposals were onerous and would have a negative impact on the state that is facing $3.5 billion budget shortfall. She warned that oil producers would find development no longer economical and would pull out.
Freshman Sen. Dan Sullivan said he was stunned and angry he and other Alaska officials were not consulted by the administration before it announced the steps that would dramatically decrease the areas of the state open to oil production. He also warned energy companies would leave the state for Nigeria or Venezuela.
“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “We’re going to fight this.”
Rep. Don Young, the only House member from Alaska, compared Obama to King George and said he had “gone completely wacko.”