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Federal Wilderness Proposals in ANWR Blasted


September 29, 2010

(SitNews) Governor Sean Parnell (R) and Alaska's United States Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski reaffirmed their opposition to any plan or wilderness review process that further encumbers the potential for oil and gas development on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Governor Parnell's comments come in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's announcement that the agency will conduct wilderness reviews for three Wilderness Study Areas for potential inclusion within the National Wilderness Preservation System.

"It is incredible that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to increase wilderness designation and lock up 11 billion barrels of oil," Governor Parnell said. "Through a detailed letter from Attorney General Dan Sullivan, and through other correspondence, my administration has repeatedly questioned the legality of this maneuver by the federal government, and yet we have not even received a response concerning the legally suspect course that Fish and Wildlife is choosing to follow.

"Oil and gas development in the Section 1002 coastal plain would provide secure on-shore domestic supply of energy for the nation, create tens of thousands of jobs throughout the country, and ensure the continued operation of the trans Alaska Pipeline System for years to come. Alaska will not allow the federal government to lock up more land without a fight."

The governor noted that oil from ANWR could help meet U.S. demand for 25 years or more and that development is compatible with the protection of wildlife and their habitat.

"We think we have strong legal options to prevent these unwarranted federal actions," Governor Parnell said.

United States Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) today in a news release opposed the efforts to ban ANWR development by Democratic Senators. Begich says the Arctic Oil and Gas Development should be part of national energy plan.

Begich said permanently prohibiting oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is irresponsible, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today took on three Democratic senators for their efforts to expand wilderness in ANWR.

In a letter to all 59 Democratic members of the U.S. Senate, Begich said the 16 billion barrels of oil believed beneath the Arctic Refuge should be part of a national energy plan which is focused on increasing domestic oil and gas production.

"Our nation imports about two-thirds of the oil we consume annually, much of it from countries which simply don't like us," Begich wrote. "Instead of sending $100 million a day to Iran, I believe we need to increase our domestic energy production."

Begich's rebuke was in response to a letter circulated by Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Mark Udall of Colorado and Tom Udall of New Mexico, asking other senators to join them in urging President Obama to extend "the strongest possible protections" to ANWR. The trio called for the extended wilderness tied to the 50th anniversary of ANWR, which was established Dec. 6, 1960, in the administration of President Eisenhower.

Begich pointed out that 92 percent of the 19.6-million-acre Arctic Refuge is already wilderness or refuge and therefore permanently protected from development. But a small portion of the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain could hold enormous reserves of oil and natural gas. Begich said it should be developed and the use of small gravel pads, extended reach drilling and seasonal restrictions would minimize impacts, limiting development to less than one-tenth of a percent of the coastal plain.

The senator pointed out the wilderness appeal is especially frustrating as Congress prepares to adjourn until mid-November without measurable progress on national energy legislation.

"Permanently prohibiting (ANWR) development would be irresponsible as this nation continues to import increasingly more of its energy from foreign sources," Begich said, noting that Alaska, as America's longtime energy storehouse, is ready and willing to help.

"We have billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas on land and in shallow water off-shore poised for responsible development," he wrote.

Begich earlier this summer joined with other members of Alaska's congressional delegation in protesting efforts by the U.S. Interior Department to conduct reviews this winter about adding more wilderness to refuges in Alaska. He has threatened to try to restrict federal funding for such efforts.

On Tuesday, United States Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) blasted the Federal Wilderness Proposals in ANWR warning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) against trampling the "no more" promise made to Alaska under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).

Murkowski's comments also came in response to the USFWS's announcement that the agency plans to conduct three wilderness reviews this winter in an attempt to lock up the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge under permanent wilderness designations.

"This is a blatant political move by the administration and clearly violates the promise of no more administrative wilderness designations in Alaska," Murkowski said.

Murkowski said the agency lacks the authority to conduct wilderness reviews in Alaska without the express consent of Congress. (See ANILCA section 1326(b).)

"Congress has given no such approval," Murkowski said. "This is a waste of time and taxpayer money ­ and it's a proposed waste of the oil and natural gas resources that belong to all Americans."

As the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Murkowski pledged to de-authorize and defund any attempt to further restrict responsible development of Alaska's natural resources.

"Congress designated the coastal plain of ANWR for oil and gas exploration more than three decades ago, but we continue to have to be vigilant against bureaucratic attempts to lock up Alaska's resources," Murkowski said.

"This is another example of the administration's inability to face reality when it comes to our nation's energy needs. The result of such shortsightedness is greater reliance on foreign sources of energy and fewer American jobs," Murkowski said.

Murkowski sent a formal letter of protest to USFWS in May, calling for the agency to halt wilderness reviews that violate provisions in ANILCA.

Alaska has more federally protected land than any other state. Alaska contains 58 million acres of federal land designated as "wilderness," an area larger New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire combined.


Sources of News:

Office of Governor Sean Parnell

U.S. Senator Mark Begich

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski


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