Murkowski Pushes Interior Nominee Jewell to Restore Balance

Senator Cites Izembek Decision, Says “Every State Has a King Cove” Problem

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski questioned the nominee to be the next Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, about her commitment to return much-needed balance to the various missions of the Department of the Interior – including responsible energy development.

In her opening comments, Murkowski told the candidate and REI President, “We need you to affirm that public lands provide not just a playground for recreational enthusiasts, but also paychecks for countless energy producers, miners, loggers and ranchers.”


(Murkowski urges Jewell to encourage oil and gas development on federal lands – CLICK to view)

Over 60 percent of Alaska’s lands are federally-owned and despite tremendous resources on those and federal lands nationwide, nearly all recent gains in national energy production have occurred on state and private lands. In her questions of Jewell, Murkowski asked whether she believed it was part of Interior’s mission to increase oil and natural gas production on federal lands.

“I hope that you would be willing to work with us to encourage the development of our oil and gas resources, our mineral resources,” Murkowski said. “We know that we are blessed with amazing reserves and resources on our federal lands, unfortunately we haven’t seen the level of activity and action that we would like on that.”

(Murkowski raises issue of Alaskan legacy wells – CLICK to view)

Murkowski asked for the nominee’s commitment to rectify Interior’s decades-old failure to clean up 120 federally drilled oil and natural gas exploration wells in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A).

“Decades ago, the federal government drilled wells in the NPRA, and abandoned them, and now refuses to put forth the necessary resources to clean up the leaking petroleum wells,” Murkowski said. “This is completely unacceptable. If the federal government was a private entity, the state of Alaska already would have leveled billions in fines, yet the federal government pays nothing and does nothing.”

Murkowski spoke at the beginning of the Jewell hearing about her commitment to seeing that the Interior Department moves forward with a land exchange for the residents of King Cove, Alaska that would provide life-saving access to a nearby airport capable of handling medevac flights in hazardous weather conditions.

“For the past several weeks, much of my time has been focused on a decision that came out of the Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service that has rattled me to the core. That agency somehow found cause to oppose a single-lane, 10-mile gravel road for non-commercial use that would connect King Cove, Alaska to the all-weather airport at Cold Bay. The reason we need that road is simple: safety of human life, which is at risk. That road would give anyone who is injured or ill a much better chance of surviving,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski has told Jewell and the White House that she will use every tool in her tool box, including holding up Jewell’s nomination, to ensure that the residents of King Cove are not treated like second-class citizens.

Murkowski said the King Cove issue was emblematic of a bigger problem with how the Interior Department treats the people who live in the West.

“King Cove stands as a prime example of federal overreach and the harm it causes. And the reality is, nearly all of us – especially in Western states – have our own King Cove,” she said. “We are all aware of instances where misguided federal restrictions are making it harder for local people to live, be safe and to prosper. We can all relate examples of a lack of balance in the Department’s policies that should further, but too often ignore, its mission to honor multiple uses of public lands.”

(Murkowski’s opening statement: Every state has a King Cove. CLICK to view.)

The full video of the hearing is available on the committee’s website.