WASHINGTON, DC U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today reacted to comments made earlier this week by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) concerning oil exploration in the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska (NPRA). Hoyer accused the Bush administration of “dragging its feet” on leasing certain areas of the Reserve. House Democrats are considering encouraging production in the Reserve, a 23.5-million acre tract of federal land on the North Slope, as part of a package of energy proposals.


“I am disappointed, but not surprised, by the lack of knowledge about energy exploration in Alaska,” Murkowski said. “Oil exploration in the NPRA has been proceeding at the fastest pace possible, given the lawsuits surrounding the leases as well as appropriate environmental safeguards that exist.”


 Murkowski noted that leasing in the area has been delayed for several years by court injunctions triggered by an environmental lawsuit and that renewed leasing is on track for this fall in the southeastern portion of the petroleum reserve.


“Apparently, some in Congress  don’t yet know that permitting, environmental reviews, environmental litigation and the environmental moratoria on leasing are the prime causes for why oil and gas leasing and exploration has been slowed in NPRA and in many other parts of Alaska,” Murkowski said. “Recent charges that this administration has been purposefully delaying oil and gas exploration in Alaska are incredible and would be comical, if they didn’t show such a lax regard for the facts.”


Murkowski intends to introduce legislation that would call on the Department of Interior to keep track of the status of each lease and provide that information to Congress. 


Murkowski also noted that most of the energy resource in NPRA is likely to be natural gas, which currently is slowed in exploration and impossible to develop until a pipeline is guaranteed to move the gas to market. Three proposals are under consideration to build a natural gas pipeline to move gas from the state’s North Slope.


“It appears that some wish to throw up smokescreens to cover the fact that they are opposed to allowing industry to look for oil and gas where its likely to be found, not where they wish it would be. There is just a lot of misinformation being thrown around to deflect attention from the fact that ANWR is forecast to hold the largest concentration of undiscovered oil onshore in North America. At a time of record prices, opening ANWR makes sense and people are attempting desperately to cover that up,” said Murkowski.