ANWR Bill Passes Natural Resources Committee

ANWR legislation is back before U.S. House members. The House Natural Resources committee is offering legislation that, among other things, would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to development.  The language is part of a larger Republican jobs bill.  Congressman Don Young says he’s pleased that it passed out of committee.

“This is the 12th time. We look at the vote, it was a good vote, 29 to 13. So that’s a good solid, bipartisan vote and I’m hoping it will pass the House with the same type of enthusiasm. Then everybody says well the Senate isn’t going to pass it, well I’ll tell you one thing if you don’t pass it in the House then the Senate certainly isn’t going to pass it so I’m going to send it over to them and see what happens,” Young said.

The bill claims it will open only 3 percent of the ANWR area to development.  What that refers to is the so-called “footprint” of the actual oil infrastructure, compared to the size of the entire Refuge.

“Let’s say it’s like the size of Washington DC, that’s all the land that will give us approximately 39 billion barrels of oil. There’s a lot of numbers but it’s a very small footprint compared to Prudhoe bay. Much better system, much more technology that’s been developed over the years and at 3% results in the possible disturbance of land mass of the 19 million acres,” Young said.

Democratic Senator Mark Begich says if the bill does pass the House and gets to the Senate, he’ll be ready to push for its passage with a companion bill.

“It’s directional drilling into ANWR, trying to get somewhat of the resistance away from the idea of drilling, but at the same time tapping in to what could be anywhere between 3 and a half billion barrels to as much as 10 and a half billion barrels of oil, of what we know, today,” Begich said.

Senator Begich says he thinks there is a new tone in Washington that may mark increased cooperation when it comes to domestic energy development. In part because President Obama is pushing for more domestic energy supplies but also because in the past few years, more states are dealing with energy development than they were in the past.

“On the east coast you’re dealing with shale gas, if you’re in North Dakota and Colorado and Montana and places like that, you’re dealing with huge development opportunities. As well as the southern states, you know Oklahoma, Texas so forth have had oil and gas, so suddenly the players are changing. And in the last 5 years, over 50% of the U.S. Senate are new members. That’s a huge opportunity for us,” Begich said.

Senator Murkowski’s spokesman Robert Dillon says although Murkowski is in favor of ANWR development and she will continue to push for it, she says the House legislation will again face a tough, uphill battle in the Senate.

Also in the House energy legislation is a provision that would force a lease sale in the North Aleutian basin – the Bristol Bay region.  Congressman Young says although he thinks oil drilling and fisheries can co-exist, he is urging Natural Resources chair Doc Hastings to put this issue off for a while because of the push for drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort.  Shell Oil is investing there now, and was also the main company interested in Bristol Bay, and Young points out there’s only so much equipment and cash to go around.

“And that would not do us good because of the Beaufort, Chukchi sea and the availability of equipment and the money available for bidding these projects. If we’re going to have these sales, they should be, the money is gotten for the highest price for this oil area,” Young said.

Congressman Young says he’d like the Bristol Bay area lease sale to be delayed for five years.

The Alaska Wilderness League’s executive director Cindy Shogun released a statement saying the ANWR effort is ‘yet another example of House Republican leadership playing the same old tired political game with our nation’s wildest refuge.’

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori