President Barack Obama has stopped in Alaska to refuel, but he plans to make his first real trip to the state in August, in the company of Secretary of State John Kerry. Or so says U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski. She let it slip during her annual address to the Alaska Legislature today, a speech aimed primarily at fighting the administration’s moves to shield parts of the Arctic from oil development.
Murkowski says she’s not normally an alarmist, but she says President Obama’s actions in the Arctic show he’s trying to starve the trans-Alaska Pipeline of new oil.
“I just can’t come to a different conclusion: It looks like the goal is to shut down the pipeline,” she said. “Now, they’re not saying that. But when you’re working against those initiatives that would allow us to fill it up, how can you conclude otherwise?”
And, Murkowski says, if the pipeline is done and dismantled, the effect on the state would be huge.
“Really, the Alaska that we know, I don’t think it exists anymore,” she said. “That’s not a future that I’m prepared for, and I don’t think that’s a future that any of us want.”
Murkowski gave her annual address to the Alaska Legislature as a rallying cry — to the extent that her deliberative personal style allows. She urged Alaska leaders to storm ramparts – politically, anyway. She’s asking them to reach out to their contacts Outside to make Alaska’s case, and to make their views known to the federal government through the public process.
She recited the issues that have inflamed Alaska’s leaders for weeks: Obama’s request for wilderness designation in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a decision to withdraw offshore areas from Arctic leasing, and restrictions in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
Legislators applauded an idea she floated to put part of ANWR under state control, either by buying it, or through a land trade. Congress has been unable to pass a bill to open it to drilling. Murkowski didn’t explain why a land trade or sale would be any more popular, but she vowed to fight at every legislative opportunity.
“Truly folks, every must-pass bill, every open amendment process, every chance that we have to leverage something for Alaska, know that I’m going to be keying in on every one of them,” she said.
This year, Murkowski became chairman of the Senate Appropriations panel that controls the Interior Department’s spending. She stopped short of saying she’d seek fiscal revenge on the Administration, though she says she has new tools to use and some are pretty sharp.
Afterward Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat, called Murkowski’s speech “half good.” Gara says more drilling doesn’t necessarily mean good revenue flow for Alaska.
“Oil production involves two things. One the drilling, and our delegation is pounding their fist on that, and that’s fine,” Gara said. “And one is whether we get any money for it. Right now, unless they change the law, we get none of the federal royalty for outer continental shelf oil. We get no state tax for OCS oil. We get nothing. Other side benefits but no revenue.”
Gara says under the state’s tax system, developing ANWR wouldn’t solve Alaska’s revenue crunch either.
As for Obama’s first visit to Alaska, a White House official said Wednesday evening that no trip is scheduled yet.