Alaska Delegation Warns President Obama Against Parting Shots at Alaska

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, and U.S. Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, today sent a letter to President Obama reiterating their strong objections to the use of Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to withdraw acreage in the Arctic planning areas of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) from future leasing.

The letter highlights the delegation’s fierce opposition to any potential Arctic withdrawals and cites the legal, economic, and scientific ramifications of such decisions. The delegation instead encouraged the administration to act in accordance with the intent of the law by recognizing that OCSLA already ensures responsible development, honoring deeply held promises the federal government made to Alaskans under the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), and supporting Arctic development.

“President Obama has canceled lease sales, made permits all but impossible to acquire, and excluded Arctic basins from the next offshore leasing plan,” Murkowski said. “That’s more than enough damage for one administration. I call on the president not to further compound those mistakes by imposing new withdrawals in the Arctic OCS. To do so would take away a golden opportunity for responsible development that can help refill the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. It would ignore the voices of Alaskans and irreparably harm our nation’s economy, security, and competitiveness.” 

“I hope the Obama administration will finally realize that withdrawing the Arctic OCS from future development not only flies in the face of the structure and intent of the law, but will keep Alaska from realizing its economic potential,” Sullivan said. “After the recent election, the President needs to listen to the American people and stop kowtowing to extreme environmental activists at the expense of America’s economic and energy security and good paying jobs for tens of thousands across the country.”

“With only weeks left in office, President Obama continues to double-down on his anti-Alaska, anti-resource development agenda,” Young said. “At a time when Alaskan families and businesses are asking for economic certainty, this administration continues to throw up roadblocks and red tape in the hopes of solidifying its legacy with some of the most extreme environmental groups. Rest assured, we will take the steps necessary to pave the path for an energy policy and plan that truly allows Alaska and the nation to develop is robust natural resource potential.”

The delegation believes the withdrawal of acreage within the Arctic OCS using Section 12(a) is unwarranted and unnecessary. The governor of Alaska, the leadership of the North Slope and Northwest Arctic boroughs, the majority of the tribal leadership representing Alaska Natives who live in the Arctic, a supermajority of the members of the Alaska State Legislature, and an overwhelming majority of the Alaskan people support responsible development, rather than withdrawals, within these areas.

Alaska’s offshore areas contain prolific energy resources. According to Interior’s own technical analysts, the Beaufort and Chukchi seas form one of the most prospective basins in the world. Together, these areas are projected to hold 23.6 billion barrels of oil and 104.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. For perspective, that is enough to meet all of California’s demands for oil and natural gas for 37.5 years and 43.5 years, respectively.

According to a 2011 analysis by the firm Northern Economics, development of the resources in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas would create an annual average of 55,000 jobs over a 50-year period. Those jobs would create a total payroll of $145 billion over that span. Development is also projected to 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.

The Alaska delegation has repeatedly asserted the importance of responsible energy development in the Arctic, and made every effort to preserve the two Arctic lease sales initially proposed for the Five-Year OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022. Chairman Murkowski also led a delegation letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and chaired an oversight hearing of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on this issue. 

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