Murkowski Fights Back on Administration’s Efforts to Pause Oil and Gas Leasing on Public Lands, Public Land Orders

Senator Presses Bureau of Land Management Officials on NPR-A, Alaska Willow Project, and D(1) Revocations

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) took part in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing that evaluated the status of the Department of the Interior’s onshore oil and gas leasing program pause and review. During the hearing, Senator Murkowski questioned Nada Culver, Deputy Director of Policy and Programs at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on a number of issues critical to Alaska, including the Willow project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) and Public Land Orders revocations. The Willow project was halted when President Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office that required Interior to conduct a review of the project.

ENR Hearing Snip - 04.27.21

In her first question, Senator Murkowski prodded Ms. Culver on what the Department believes the purpose of the NPR-A is and the Department’s position on oil and gas leasing and responsible resource development in that area.

“National Petroleum Reserve. What is it in that title that was created back in 1923 under the Harding administration that would suggest that this would not be an area that we look to as a nation for petroleum resources?” asked Senator Murkowski.

CLICK HERE for video on the NPR-A.

Conoco’s Willow project is an enormous opportunity to provide new resources and ensure continued oil for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. Senator Murkowski spoke to potential revenue and jobs that it could create, including highlighting the broad support that it has from communities and leaders on the North Slope. She also highlighted the extensive environmental review and public process that the project has went through for the past decade.

“This is a project that has been under review for multiple administrations, beginning with the Obama administration and has gone through a process that most would consider to be extraordinarily extensive,” said Senator Murkowski. “When you look through some of these letters [of support], it is because of not only the resource that it promises, but some 2,000 construction jobs, 75 percent of them would be well-paying union jobs. $2.3 billion dollars in revenue for the state, $7.6 billion in federal royalties.”

Senator Murkowski submitted 18 letters of support for the Willow project. The letters—which hail from maritime organizations to unions and Alaska Native leaders who live in the region—emphasized that the decisions to undergo a review and pause were made without their input. Senator Murkowski raised the issue to Ms. Culver on whether the Department consulted with Alaska Native representatives in these areas on the decisions to halt the Willow Project.

“One of the things that is really quite concerning to me though is as I read these letters is the fact that the Native people who live and work and raise their families in this region feel that they have not had an opportunity to be heard on this. That this decision for this review and this pause was made without their consultation,” asked Senator Murkowski.

CLICK HERE for video on the Willow Project.

The BLM recently took a unilateral and legally questionable action to pause and re-open the administrative record on Public Land Orders (PLOs) that were signed by the previous Interior Secretary and would have revoked tens of millions of acres of withdrawals throughout the state. Senator Murkowski concluded her comments by asking Ms. Culver what consideration was given to the Alaska Native Vietnam veterans allotment program prior to the decision to pause the revocations and her commitment that these allotments will not be delayed any further.

“I want a commitment from you that these allotments are not going to continue to be delayed and that you will provide me a status, within the next 24 hours, to where we are with these PLOs. Because people in Alaska are anxious, are upset, they’re mad, and we’re going to continue to channel that anger because what has happened with this basically relook at these PLOs is absolutely egregious.”

CLICK HERE for video on Public Land Orders.