Chairman Murkowski: Democrats’ Wilderness Proposal Dead On Arrival

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today dismissed a new bill from a group of Senate Democrats to formally designate the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as permanent wilderness.

“I will do everything in my power to make sure this misguided effort does not advance another inch after today,” Murkowski said. “Once again Alaska is again being attacked by a group of senators who wish to impose President Obama’s destructive agenda. Instead of recognizing that the surface development of just 0.01 percent of the non-wilderness portion of ANWR is a great opportunity for our country, these members have chosen to distort the facts of the debate and renege on important promises made to Alaska.” 

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also pointed out the irony of Senate Democrats’ recent efforts to allow Iran to increase its own oil production while stifling energy production at home. 

“The context of this bill is simply stunning. Many of the same Democratic members who sponsored it recently voted to lift sanctions on Iran,” Murkowski said. “It’s beyond me how these senators could support Iran’s ability to begin exporting up to a million barrels a day – enabling an increase in Iranian production many times greater than Alaska’s current production – and yet want to stop development that would disturb less area than the Dulles Airport in Virginia.”

Polls routinely show that more than 70 percent of Alaskans support ANWR development. Under the terms of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), additional wilderness designations are also barred in Alaska without the express approval of Congress.

Alaska already contains more than half of all land in America protected under wilderness status – the federal government’s most restrictive management designation. Congress in 1980 also made a conscious decision to keep the coastal plain out of wilderness status because of its massive energy potential, and specifically designated the area for oil and gas exploration.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that this part of the coastal plain has a mean likelihood of containing 10.4 billion barrels of oil and 8.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

ANWR is 19.3 million acres, with 8 million acres of official wilderness. Murkowski has introduced legislation that would allow oil and natural gas activity on just 2,000 acres in the non-wilderness portion, or 0.01 percent of the total refuge.

“I stand ready to have meaningful conversations with any my colleagues about how we leverage our natural resources to transition to a cleaner energy future,” Murkowski said. “But so long as I am here, the only bill related to ANWR that has a chance of passing the Senate will be my bill – not this one. This effort has failed before, and it will fail again.”