Alaska Delegation Reacts to Stunning Arctic Withdrawal

Obama Locks up the Arctic, Denies Economic Opportunity for Alaskans

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young (all R-Alaska) today slammed President Barack Obama for unilaterally placing the entire Chukchi Sea and the vast majority of the Beaufort Sea off-limits to energy development.

The sweeping withdrawal disrespects the Alaskan people, is not based on sound science, and contradicts the administration’s own conclusions about Arctic development. It will have lasting consequences for Alaska’s economy, state finances, and the security and competitiveness of the nation. In making the decision, President Obama yet again sided with extreme environmentalists, while betraying his utter lack of commitment to improving the lives of the people who actually live in the Arctic.

Making matters worse, the joint announcement with Canada amounts to an incredibly lopsided trade for the United States. While President Obama’s Arctic withdrawal is indefinite, Canada will review the status of its Arctic waters every five years. With Russian development already underway in the Arctic, it may be just a few short years before our nation is bracketed by activity on both sides and importing the oil resulting from it. 

“The only thing more shocking than this reckless, short-sighted, last-minute gift to the extreme environmental agenda is that President Obama had the nerve to claim he is doing Alaska a favor,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “For him to suggest to the people of the Arctic that they must rely on a nonexistent government working group and $9 million a year in charity as a substitute for real economic opportunity is a slap in the face to countless Alaskans. President Obama has once again treated the Arctic like a snow globe, ignoring the desires of the people who live, work, and raise a family there. I cannot wait to work with the next administration to reverse this decision.”

“This announcement by the Obama Administration is an affront to our representative democracy,” said Senator Sullivan. “Make no mistake – the President betrayed Alaskans today – especially those living in the Arctic – who were not consulted, and instead gave one final Christmas gift to coastal environmental elites. This decision is not about environmental protection or the economics of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. This is hopefully the last act of a callous presidency, one that lacks any regard for America’s economic future and the hardworking families of Alaska. Presiding over a lost decade of economic growth for America, Obama’s legacy will not be one of transparency and inclusion of affected stakeholders, but instead one of executive overreach at the command of extreme special interests with agendas far removed from and unsympathetic to middle-class Alaskan families and other hardworking Americans.”

“Hell-bent on locking away our resources and suffocating our already weakened economy, President Obama is one step closer to solidifying his place next to Jimmy Carter as Alaska’s worst nightmare,” said Congressman Don Young. “Frankly, this is a cowardly move by a lame duck President – eight years to take this action, yet it comes at the 11th hour with little to no support from Alaskans. I’ve been adamant with this administration; Alaska is not and should not be used as the poster child for a pandering environmental agenda. This decision only strengthens our resolve – as a resources oriented state – to overturn the heavy hand of government and empower our people and communities with new social and economic opportunities. The groundwork is already being laid to overturn this terrible decision.”

The Beaufort and Chukchi seas together form one of the most prospective basins in the world, with an estimated 23.6 billion barrels of oil and 104.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. A 2011 analysis found that development of those resources would create an annual average of 55,000 jobs over a 50-year period and generate a total of $193 billion for local, state, and federal treasuries. According to a 2014 poll, 73 percent of Alaskans support Arctic OCS development.

Related Issues: Energy