State lawmakers pleased with Murkowski hearing on ANWR
News of Thursday’s Senate Energy Committee hearing to consider opening a portion of Alaska's 1002 area was music to many state lawmakers’ ears, as they deal with a multi-billion dollar budget gap.
The 1002 Area covers 1.57 million acres of land in northeast Alaska, within the non-wilderness portion of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Alaska's senior senator Lisa Murkowski is chair of the Senate's Energy and Natural Resource Committee and called for Thursday's meeting.
Sixteen members of the Alaska Senate sent a letter to the committee in support of development in ANWR. In the House, members on both sides of the aisle said they also support the move.
Even those who said they were concerned about wilderness in the area said they think some limited parts should be opened for exploration.
"I share the concerns about the value of that resource as left untouched, but I think given particularly the state’s financial circumstances, that it would be important to know what’s in the ground," said Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage), chair of the House Resources Committee.
Rep. Dean Westlake (D-Kotzebue), vice-chair of the Resources Committee, sponsored a joint resolution in support of development in the region. The measure was approved by both the House and Senate in February.
"I'm optimistic, cautiously optimistic," Westlake said of Thursday's U.S. Senate hearing. "I think it’s a wonderful first step in something we’ve been wanting to see for a long time."