Murkowski Presses Interior Secretary on Resource Development in Alaska

“Respecting our lands and responsibly developing our resources are not mutually exclusive”

U.S. Senator Murkowski, Ranking member on the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, today raised Alaska specific priorities with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland during a hearing on the Interior Department’s budget for Fiscal Year 2022. Building on a number of previous conversations with the Secretary, Senator Murkowski made very clear that Alaska has proven itself capable of safe, responsible resource development and pressed the Secretary on her commitment to following the law regarding resource development in Alaska.

For video of Senator Murkowski’s opening statement, click here.

“It is no secret that resource issues in Alaska are under a political microscope. The management of public lands in Alaska are often the subject of people who have never been to my home state, who don’t understand Alaskans’ commitment to our lands and wildlife, and don’t appreciate the importance in Alaska of opportunities to responsibly develop critical natural resources that provide jobs and power our nation.”

Murkowski stressed to Interior Secretary Haaland that respecting our lands and responsibly developing our resources are not mutually exclusive.

“The Willow project went through a rigorous permitting process and is proceeding to development because we have demonstrated in Alaska that we can hold our projects to an extremely high standard and meet that standard. Which is one of the reasons why it was wasn’t a surprise, but no less a disappointment, to learn that your Department was suspending leases in Alaska’s 1002 Area in direct conflict with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Secretary Haaland, I expect you to follow the law and the law mandates an oil and gas leasing program be established on the non-wilderness Coastal Plain, which I’ll remind everyone was set aside for future exploration and development in the law that created the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and ordered at least two lease sales by 2024.”

The oil and gas leasing program established for the 1002 Area meets the legal mandates required by Congress including imposing a framework with a range of environmental safeguards that are successfully guiding environmentally responsible production elsewhere in northern Alaska.

“This action serves political interests while obstructing Alaska’s economy and putting our nation’s energy security at great risk—all while the Department has acknowledged with the Willow Project that Alaskans are committed to developing our resources responsibly and have demonstrated our ability to do so safely to the world.”

Murkowski noted a court ruling yesterday, where a federal district court ruled that the Department’s halting of lease sales is unlawful.

“In light of this important ruling, I expect to hear today your plans to resume implementation of those lease sales. As we were reminded yesterday, it is the Secretary’s job to faithfully execute the laws as they are written, not as one wishes they were. These lease sales are causing states to lose out on ‘millions if not billions’ in revenues and the resulting significant funding for critical conservation and land acquisition programs that you champion and the Department relies on.”

Senator Murkowski ended her questions on resource development by very explicitly asking for Secretary Haaland’s understanding of Public Law Number 115-97.

“Current law mandates that two lease sales be held in the 1002 Area. As Secretary of the Interior, you are specifically required to hold the second lease sale by 2024. This is as mandated by law. I mentioned I was encouraged by yesterday’s district court ruling that determined that the administration’s pause is outside of the law. So the question very directly is: Do you believe that you are required by current law to hold a lease sale in the 1002 Area of ANWR by 2024?”

Secretary Haaland reiterated that she would, “always, always follow the law,” and confirmed that, “if that is in the law, we will follow the law.”

Background: Senator Murkowski authored the natural resource title of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (Public Law No. 115-97) which states: “The Secretary [of the Interior] shall offer a second lease sale under the oil and gas program under this section not later than 7 years after the date of enactment of this Act.”