The Hill: Murkowski ‘will never drop’ fight to move Alaska out of Ninth Circuit

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Thursday that she will fight to move Alaska out of the liberal U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which has served as a venue for environmental group challenges to oil drilling plans.

But she acknowledged that it's an uphill battle.

"So-called public interest litigation groups view Alaska as fertile ground to push the edges of environmental advocacy, without regard to the Alaskans who may be hurt by the outcome," Murkowski said in a speech before the Alaska state legislature, according to a copy of her prepared remarks.

"These groups have long enjoyed a sympathetic ear in the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit. And adding insult to injury, when they succeed in establishing gotcha precedents, U.S. taxpayers are required to pay their expenses. We will need a sea change in Congress to make it happen, but I will never drop my fight to move Alaska out of the Ninth Circuit," she said.

Murkowski is the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and has been upset with litigation that has delayed Shell Oil's exploration off Alaska's coast.

Murkowski also said that abundant shale natural gas reserves in the Lower 48 states are no reason to abandon long-delayed plans for a massive pipeline that would bring Alaskan gas south.

She touted provisions she added to legislation the Energy Committee approved that would increase federal loan guarantees for the project.

"Recent news about the cost of the project and competition from other gas finds in the Lower 48 are not reasons to give up. The gasline continues to enjoy strong support from energy companies, my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and the President," she said.

"Even though shale gas is coming on line, our gas still has a critical role to play. I believe the abundance of gas will cause industrial sectors from trucking to power generation to convert to gas, creating a more stable market where Alaska gas, shale gas, and foreign LNG will all find their market."

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Source: By Ben Geman. Originally published in The Hill on February 18, 2010