Senator Murkowski Questions Interior Secretary Salazar on Alaska Issues

Focuses on remediation of legacy wells in NPR-A and cuts to Alaska land conveyances

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, made the following opening statement during today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Department of Interior’s fiscal year 2013 budget request. During her remarks, Murkowski highlighted the enormous cuts to the Alaska Conveyance Program, the strained relations between Alaskans and federal management agencies and the additional and increased fees and royalties for leasing and production on federal lands.

In her questioning of Interior Secretary Salazar, Murkowski highlighted her concerns about the slow pace of reclamation of existing wells in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) and the federal government’s long overdue conveyance of land owed to Alaska and Alaska Natives under the over 40-year-old Alaska Native Settlement Claims Act (ANCSA).

Legacy Wells:

“There’s a resolution that was passed by the State House of Representatives and it points out that the federal government has received over $9 billion in lease sales within the petroleum reserve, where these exploratory wells were drilled. The state can’t impose fines on the federal government. But if it could, the fines would be over $8 billion,” Murkowski said. “Right now, the Department of Interior has suggested to the state of Alaska that we can do one well a year. If that’s the rate that we’re going, we’re sitting here with over 100 years to remediate and repair. I need to have an action plan for the people of the state of Alaska on this.”

Alaska Conveyance Program:

“We need to have a better path forward as to how we’re going to complete these conveyances. If we keep on the track that we have been on, it’s going to be an additional 70 or 80 years for Alaska to get our lands conveyed that were promised at statehood, and the lands that were promised to Alaska Natives under that Alaska Native Settlement Claims Act. That’s too long to wait for the federal government to keep its promise.”

Click here for the full video of the hearing.

Murkowski is the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, which gives her authority over the Interior Department’s mission and their budget.