Obama Moves to Put Much of Refuge Off Limits to Drilling

26 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Obama Moves to Protect 12 Million Acres of Alaskan Wildlife.

The calving ground for the giant Porcupine Caribou Herd is on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Range. The Obama Administration will ask Congress to protect millions of acres of land in Alaska from a range of human activity including drilling and road construction, officials said Sunday.US President Barack Obama has called on Congress to designate more than 12m acres of Alaska’s arctic wilds for environmental protection, opening another battle line with Republicans and the oil industry. The decision by the president, which would block oil and gas production, was immediately criticized by the state’s Republican lawmakers who claim it will damage the state’s economy.

The designation would seal off the area in Alaska’s northeast corner from oil exploration and give it the highest degree of federal protection available to public lands. The nearly 20 million acre refuge has long been a piece of contentious land in the struggle between conservationists and advocates of greater energy exploration in the United States. The move, which would require the approval of a Republican-led Congress, would more than double the current 7m acres of the refuge now given the highest environmental designation possible for US public lands. In a White House video released Sunday, Obama says he is seeking the designation “so we can make sure that this amazing wonder is preserved for future generations.” Senate’s new Republican majority are already in conflict over energy issues, from climate change to construction of the Keystone pipeline from Canada.

Lisa Murkowski condemned the move immediately as an act of federal overreach. “It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory,” she said in a statement. “The promises made to us at statehood, and since then, mean absolutely nothing to them.” The President described what he called “Alaska’s Wildlife Refuge” as an “incredible place”, “pristine” and “undisturbed,” and said it should remain so. The arctic region represents one of the nation’s largest known petroleum reserves, though harsh conditions and environmental concerns have hampered exploration and development.

Bill Walker, reacted angrily at the administration’s moves, and Obama’s efforts to win wilderness designation will likely face stiff resistance in the Republican-controlled Congress. “I have tried to work with this administration — even though they’ve made it extremely difficult every step of the way — but those days are officially over,” said Republican Sen. Spokesmen for ConocoPhillips, BP Plc (BP/), Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) and Exxon Mobil Corp., all of which have significant operations in Alaska, didn’t immediately return calls and e-mails seeking comment. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska’s senior senator and the chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “We are left with no choice but to hit back as hard as we can.” The Interior Department issued a comprehensive plan Sunday that for the first time recommended the additional protections. The announcement will set off a furious battle with Alaska’s pro-oil congressional delegation. “We will fight back with every resource at our disposal,” Sen. But it’s very fragile.” Obama said the move is part of a comprehensive Interior Department plan to protect the refuge and designate new areas for preservation and that he will call on Congress “to make sure they take it one step further” by designating the area as wilderness.

President Dwight Eisenhower designated an 8 million acre Arctic Wildlife Range in 1960 just before leaving office, responding to such conservationists as U.S. The campaign to drill ran aground — literally — on Good Friday in 1989, when the tanker Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound and dumped 11.9 million gallons of oil into its pristine waters.

Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, threw a fit on the Senate floor and threatened to campaign against Cantwell. (Cantwell, on a trip to the Arctic Refuge, watched both a grizzly bear and a wolverine through a spotting scope. “It this an unusual sight?” she asked. Still, news of the Obama administration’s action came out in a tin-eared way that is sure to supply cold-weather fuel for Alaska’s pro-oil politicians. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska “We will defeat their lawless attempt to designate ANWR as a wilderness as well as their ultimate goal of making Alaska one big national park,” Sullivan said. But production at the huge Prudhoe Bay field has started to decline. “Having just given Alaskans the state of the State and State of the Budget addresses, it’s clear that our fiscal challenge in both the short and long-term would benefit significantly from increased oil production,” said the Governor.

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