CONCERNS ABOUT INTERIOR POLICIES
May 13, 2009
Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, continues to have concerns about recent Interior decisions affecting Alaska, including:
Sens. Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Bob Bennett, R-Utah, placed holds on Hayes over a simple issue - will the Obama administration respond to legitimate questions from Republican senators? So far, the answer has been 'no.'
"I continue to have concerns about the direction the Department of the Interior is taking on energy policy and the Endangered Species Act and the possible impact those decisions could have on Alaska," Murkowski said. "It's important that the administration answer these questions."
Bennett, who placed his hold two months ago, has asked Interior to conduct a review of the department's decision to revoke 77 gas leases in Utah for which they gave factually incorrect justification. Interior has refused to conduct the review until Hayes is confirmed.
Neither Murkowski or Bennett have asked the Department of the Interior to adopt or repeal any specific rule or policy, or take or repeal any specific administrative action.
Murkowski is seeking clarification as to what the administration's policy is going to be toward Alaska, and whether Alaska's oil and gas resources will be able to be developed to benefit the nation. Murkowski said she's particularly concerned about the fate of future lease sales planned for the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
"It's important that Alaska's offshore energy resources are allowed to move forward on a level playing field with the Gulf of Mexico," Murkowski said. "We should pursue development of Alaska's outer continental shelf as long as it can be done responsibly."
Murkowski sent Interior a letter asking about the implementation of a series of actions that seem to be dramatically contrary to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's and President Barack Obama's statements regarding increased domestic energy production. Interior responded to the letter late last night but provided only vague and incomplete answers. Murkowski is preparing a follow-up seeking clarification on three specific issues.
"There's inconsistency in the statements that have come from the administration and the actions as evidenced through its rulemaking and policy directives," Murkowski said. "I still have questions about whether this administration does indeed want to include increased domestic conventional energy production as one of the legs of our comprehensive energy policy. Or if this administration is going to say one thing and then do another."
Wednesday's 57-39 cloture vote fell three short of what was needed to advance Hayes' nomination. All but two Republican senators voted against cloture.
"Today's vote simply reinforces the Senate's advise and consent role for presidential nominees, and ensures that we can get meaningful commitments and answers regarding the nation's energy policy," Murkowski said. "This issue could be easily resolved if the administration would provide honest and specific answers to a few of my most important concerns about its plans for Alaska and the nation's energy policy."
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