While lawmakers are debating the best way to balance the state budget, President Trump says Alaska could play a big role in helping to fill the federal deficit; the president wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas development.
Kara Moriarty, president of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, said getting the refuge open to development couldn’t happen quickly, nor is it the president’s call.
“There is a whole process that has to go first,” said Moriarty. “Congress has to approve it, then that starts a whole environmental process before a lease sale occurs.”
The area of ANWR where a lease sale might occur isn’t in the vast majority of the refuge that is designated as protected wilderness. It’s in an area on the coastal plain known as 10-02 that was set aside by Congress to possibly allow oil and gas development in the future.
President Trump’s budget request includes revenues that could come from lease sales in the area. The document says lease sales could generate $1.8 billion over the next 10 years.
Moriarty said Congress had agreed to open ANWR as recently as 1995, when it was passed by both houses. But, it was vetoed by President Clinton. Senator Lisa Murkowski said she’s ready to take it on again.
“It will be up to us to remind not only members of Congress, but people around the country, why additional energy independence and being able to access a resource like ANWR is important for Alaska and the nation,” said Murkowski.
But environmental groups take a different view.
“I think this administration is pretty focused on maximizing corporate profits and not thinking long-term about the future of the state, or the country for that matter,” said Andy Moderow with the Alaska Wilderness League.
Moderow said the group has collected signatures from more than 2,300 Alaskans who agree that drilling for oil shouldn’t be the the basis for a sound economy, no matter what lawmakers say. Moderow said they planned to deliver the letter to lawmakers in both Juneau and Washington, D.C. along with a plea to keep ANWR closed.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Kara Moriarty’s name.