Begich Opposes Democratic Senators’ Efforts to Ban ANWR Development
Says Arctic Oil and Gas Development Should be Part of National Energy Plan
Saying permanently prohibiting oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is irresponsible, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today took on three Democratic senators for their efforts to expand wilderness in ANWR.
In a letter to all 59 Democratic members of the U.S. Senate, Begich said the 16 billion barrels of oil believed beneath the Arctic Refuge should be part of a national energy plan which is focused on increasing domestic oil and gas production.
"Our nation imports about two-thirds of the oil we consume annually, much of it from countries which simply don't like us," Begich wrote. "Instead of sending $100 million a day to Iran, I believe we need to increase our domestic energy production."
Begich's rebuke was in response to a letter circulated by Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Mark Udall of Colorado and Tom Udall of New Mexico, asking other senators to join them in urging President Obama to extend "the strongest possible protections" to ANWR. The trio called for the extended wilderness tied to the 50th anniversary of ANWR, which was established Dec. 6, 1960, in the administration of President Eisenhower.
Begich pointed out that 92 percent of the 19.6-million-acre Arctic Refuge is already wilderness or refuge and therefore permanently protected from development. But a small portion of the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain could hold enormous reserves of oil and natural gas. Begich said it should be developed and the use of small gravel pads, extended reach drilling and seasonal restrictions would minimize impacts, limiting development to less than one-tenth of a percent of the coastal plain.
The senator pointed out the wilderness appeal is especially frustrating as Congress prepares to adjourn until mid-November without measurable progress on national energy legislation.
"Permanently prohibiting (ANWR) development would be irresponsible as this nation continues to import increasingly more of its energy from foreign sources," Begich said, noting that Alaska, as America's longtime energy storehouse, is ready and willing to help.
"We have billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas on land and in shallow water off-shore poised for responsible development," he wrote.
Begich earlier this summer joined with other members of Alaska's congressional delegation in protesting efforts by the U.S. Interior Department to conduct reviews this winter about adding more wilderness to refuges in Alaska. He has threatened to try to restrict federal funding for such efforts.