Murkowski, Jewell Spar Over North Slope Oil And Gas Development

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell faced off in a Senate hearing Tuesday morning in Washington.

Murkowski repeated accusations that the Obama administration is shutting off development on the North Slope, starving the trans-Alaska pipeline of oil. And Murkowski says the process has already started in the western Lower 48.

“Interior’s decisions are hurting Alaskans. You’re depriving us of jobs, revenue security and prosperity,” Murkowski said. “But Alaskans aren’t alone in this. And I want my colleagues to understand, I think what we’re seeing in Alaska is a warning for those in the West. And the fact is almost every other Western state has multiple legitimate complaints against the Interior.”

Jewell suggests the low throughput of the pipeline is not solely the government’s doing.

“I am fully committed to supporting the efforts in the North Slope of Alaska to keep the trans-Alaska pipeline full,” Jewell said. “As you know I worked on that pipeline as a college student. As a petroleum engineer I understand how fields peak, and Produhoe Bay oil field and related oil fields have been passed their peak production for some time, I’m aware of that.”

Jewell says her department has left a lot available for development, particularly in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, where Jewell says 72 percent of the estimated recoverable oil is in areas open to leasing.

“And we have recently approved Conoco-Phillips’ preferred proposal for drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve,” Jewell said. “Offshore, 90 percent of the estimated recoverable oil and gas will be available for leasing in the Beafort and Chukchi Seas.”

Jewell was defending her proposed budget before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Murkowski chairs.