Murkowski Slams Biden Administration’s Decisions in Senate Floor Speech

Washington, DC – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) delivered a speech on the Senate Floor detailing the negative impacts of the Biden Administration’s decisions that will prevent responsible resource development in Alaska. The Department of the Interior (DOI) released a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) today for the Ambler Access Project (AAP), selecting the “no action” alternative to deny the project’s re-approval.

DOI today also finalized its “Proposed Rule for Management and Protection of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A).” The final rule prohibits leasing and infrastructure development on millions of acres of the petroleum reserve and threatens access to millions more.

Watch the speech here

Read the full speech below:

“Mr. President, this was supposed to be a really great week for us in Alaska. We had an opportunity to kick off the Alaska Resources Day back here in Washington, DC.

The leaders of 10 of my home State's trade associations--notably, all women, which I think is worth commenting on--all flew back to Washington, DC, for Resources Day. They and other industry leaders gathered to really celebrate the success of the industries that are present in our State--everything from oil and gas to mining, to seafood, and tourism. It was a good day spent educating folks about Alaska's commitment to and, really, our record--a very strong record--of responsible development to benefit Alaska and the Nation.

It should have been a really great opportunity to reflect on how far we have come as a State. But instead of being able to focus on that, the big buzz was the reminder that we are really at the mercy of an administration that views us--views Alaska, views Alaska's resources--as really nothing more than a political pawn in a reelection campaign.

The rumors are out there, and there is more substance to them now than there were a few days ago. But the Biden administration is set to announce yet two more decisions to restrict and prohibit resource development in the State of Alaska.

This is almost getting to be so routine that we are coming to dread Fridays in the State of Alaska because that seems to be the day that the administration reserves to just dump more closures, more lockups, more shutdowns on us, on top of the dozens and dozens of initiatives that have already been imposed on us over these past 3 years.

Unfortunately, the decisions that are going to be unveiled tomorrow are probably some of the worst that we have seen from the administration--an administration that I think has just lost their way when it comes to energy and mineral security.

I want to talk, first, about the mineral security piece of it because we are going to see announced tomorrow the rejection of the Ambler Access Project.

This is a private road. It is a private road that is needed to access and unlock a region that we call the Ambler Mining District.

There was a 1980 law under ANILCA, part of the balance that we struck on conservation. This was the big deal in 1980, but it was an effort to put into conservation status while still allowing for certain development. But under that law, we were guaranteed road access to the district.

Why is the district important in the first place? It was important back then, in the 1980s, but even more so important now because of the critical minerals that this country needs to break our dependence on China and other foreign nations. This project is not new. This project was fully approved, and I think it is worth underscoring that--fully approved--in 2020. But this administration said: Never mind all that.

Interior sought a voluntary court remand for Ambler's approval on the very same day that President Biden held a roundtable to discuss--what?--the importance of critical minerals and how this country needed critical minerals. He is saying that on one screen, and on the other screen you have got a remand effectively putting the brakes on the Ambler project. And for the past couple of years now, Interior has magnified the impacts of this simple private haul road so that they could really find a way to just turn the tables, to turn this project from one that had been approved to one that will be rejected.

The second action that we are anticipating from Interior tomorrow will be the finalization, the final rule, to shut down further access to our National Petroleum Reserve in the northwest portion of the State. This is a 23 million-acre expanse. This is an area about the size of Indiana. There are only a few hundred acres of this Indiana-sized piece of the State that have ever been approved for any type of development, and it is exactly what the Obama-Biden administration had pointed to. They said to the oil and gas companies: Go there. Go to the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Don't go to ANWR; go over here. Develop there.

So now you have the interest in it, and after approving exactly one significant project in our petroleum reserve, the Biden administration has now completely abandoned that approach. And what we expect to see tomorrow is Interior issuing just a sweeping rule to now cut off access and, to add insult to injury, with barely consulting the Alaska Natives who live on the North Slope--failed to consult. They violated their own policies. They ignored Federal law. This is really tough for us in Alaska because this is not the first time now that this administration has just turned their eye to what the law requires. They ignored Federal law which requires an expeditious program of competitive leasing and development. So where there was once opportunity, they are now creating uncertainty and restrictions that will cut off access and halt future projects.

But again, never mind all that, the administration says, because it just doesn't seem to matter to them. That is what I don't get--not the rule of law, not the local people who support responsible development, not the State benefits or the national need, not even the international events and crises that we are dealing with right now this moment that should have prompted a gut check and maybe folks within the White House saying: Maybe we should dial this back just a bit right now, given what is happening in the world.

But none of that seems to matter as, once again, this administration makes two more politically motivated decisions against responsible resource development in Alaska.

And we need to be clear here. These were not fair processes. These were fait accompli, decided behind closed doors, likely in concert with the national environmental groups well before the administration even publicly announced that it was even considering them.

So here we are. Here we are. Under the administration, there hasn't been and there won't be any new leasing in our petroleum reserve. There aren't any more project approvals in sight to help supply west coast refineries that have now turned to imports from abroad. And where are they looking for those imports? Previously from countries like Russia, but now--now--at the direct expense of the Amazon rainforest, which the environmental community calls the lungs of our planet. But that is where California, believe it or not, is going to be looking to import.

And nor will we be able to build the private, restricted-use Ambler Road that Federal law explicitly allows for that we need to access minerals that are crucial to our security, to our economy, and to the success of this administration's own policies.

And I think this is all because it is a political year. It is a political year, and this administration is putting partisan payoffs ahead of sound policy, and that is regrettable. It is mightily regrettable.

Setting aside Alaska Resources Day, think about what these decisions say about the administration's priorities and the signals that they send to our adversaries because I think sometimes we just look at these, and we think about them in the context of what people in our own country are saying. But what is the message that is being sent to our adversaries? We know and they know that we are deeply dependent on foreign minerals. This is our Nation's Achilles' heel--I keep talking about it--especially as China dominates so many global supply chains.

We imported at least 50 percent of our supply of 49 different mineral commodities last year, including 100 percent of 15 of them. And that has risen quite dramatically over the past couple of decades, and for many crucial commodities, it is still going up.

So why does the Ambler district matter? It matters because it has copper. Our top experts warn that copper is on the verge of a global shortage. It has cobalt, which we imported 67 percent of our supply last year, including from African nations where malnourished children are the ones who dig it out by hand. We can't feel good about that. The Ambler district has resources like gallium and germanium, which China, in an effort to show who is boss here, recently cut its exports of. This was a clear shot across the bow to the West.

About the only thing that Ambler doesn't have is access to a road, which it needs to facilitate the mining, which we need to facilitate everything from advanced munitions to electric vehicles. So let me assure you, we should want to mine in Ambler, where it will happen safely, under the highest environmental standards in the world. And we should stop outsourcing mining abroad, particularly to these jurisdictions where there are no or very little environmental protections, and we see horrific human rights abuses among workers.

The administration's NPR-A decision--again, that is our petroleum reserve. We shouldn't just talk in these acronyms. NPR-A means National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. This decision is just as reckless. The Middle East is on the verge of a regional war, thanks to Iran, and the one thing standing between us and $200-a-barrel oil is American producers that operate on State and private land. And yet the President criticizes them. He criticizes them instead of thanking them for saving his administration. That is what is helping to keep a lid on some of these prices.

It is one thing to conjure up a villain; it is another to let the real villain, which in this case is Iran, off the hook, and that is exactly what we are seeing happen right now.

Since taking office, President Biden has relaxed sanctions on Iranian oil exports, allowing them to do what? To produce more, to sell more, and thus to gain tens of billions of dollars. According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, as of last September, Iranian oil revenues had increased during the Biden administration by $26.3 billion to $29.5 billion. And we know that those numbers have just grown today. And what is Iran using the revenues on? You don't need to guess. It is terror. It is regional destabilization--from their Quds Force, from Hamas, from Hezbollah, from the Houthis, and from the regional militias backed by the regime.

And last weekend we saw what that means when Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at our ally Israel. The attack was designed to overwhelm Israel's air defense and only failed due to the heroic efforts of a coalition that also included the United States, France, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

We know what happens. We know what happens when Iran is allowed to enrich itself. Their proxies attack Israel. They attack Israel. They fan the flames of regional war that could draw in global superpowers, and they continue their direct attacks on American troops who are present in the region to fight ISIS, among others.

The Secretary of the Navy testified this week that American military ships had been attacked 130 times and used more than $1 billion in munitions in the Middle East over the last 6 months. Those are our warships. And that doesn't even count the attacks on our bases.

So deterrence has been lost. The administration's Iran policy has failed. But how do they react? By suggesting that we don't go after Iran's oil.

Reuters ran a story with the headline that said, ``Biden unlikely to cut Iran's oil lifeline after Israel attack.'' And then POLITICO dished on this by saying, ``Why Biden could leave Iran's oil alone.'' And then the Washington Post had a well-sourced piece about the Biden administration telling Ukraine to stop attacking Russian refineries because they are nervous about the gas prices leading up to the election.

I mean, I read these stories, and it drives me crazy. I mean, what does Alaska have to do to get some recognition that we might just have a resource that not only we need in this country but our friends and allies need? You have got a regime that is actively funding terror with its oil revenues, another regime that is funding a catastrophic war against an innocent people, and on the other hand, you have a State--part of the United States--that wants to responsibly develop its resources to build basic infrastructure and provide services for some of its least well-off residents.

And somehow--somehow--out of that, the President has decided to relax enforcement of our energy sanctions on Iran and put it on Alaska. That is what we feel like. We feel like those sanctions are on us directly. They don't want to hurt Russian production, but they are sure not hesitant to hurt Alaska. So, I think you can understand why so many of us are frustrated and, really, even angry with the Biden administration about these policies. It is unfair to always be picked on anytime the administration needs to shore up its credibility with national environmental groups.

We kind of feel like we are the giving tree at this point--except, ironically, we know that this administration would never allow anyone to harvest timber, so we can't be a giving tree. That is pretty well off limits too. But it is also bad policy--just truly bad policy--to sacrifice our jobs and our revenues and deprive our country of steady, affordable supplies of domestic energy and minerals. And it is truly bad policy to ignore the rule of law and our strategic vulnerabilities.

We will all feel the consequences as we let some of the worst people in the world produce and gain from their resources instead of the very best here at home.

So, Mr. President, no State or nation produces its resources, I believe, in a more environmentally responsive manner than Alaska. No people care more about their surrounding environment than Alaska. I know I have got my friend from Vermont here, and he cares passionately and I know the people of Vermont care passionately, but we have a lot that we care passionately about.

So, I just ask the question of colleagues; I ask the question of those in the administration: Given a choice between China and Africa or Alaska for minerals, it should be Alaska every time. And given a choice between Iran and Russia and Venezuela or Alaska for oil, it should be Alaska every time. And I think most Americans would agree, but it is deeply disappointing--I believe, harmful--that those who hold positions of power in the Biden administration are not among them.

With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor and respect that my colleague from Vermont has been waiting.”



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