Obama’s Alaska move triggers fight

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Obama Moves to Put Much of Alaska Refuge Off Limits to Drilling.

President Barack Obama picked a fight with Alaska’s congressional delegation — including Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski — unveiling a proposal on Sunday to protect millions of acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The plan, which was released by the Interior Department, recommends designating 12.28 million acres, including the refuge’s coastal plain, as wilderness. 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.

Only Congress has the authority to make wilderness designations, so the final decision is in the hands of Republican lawmakers, who are unlikely to approve the proposal. Murkowski described the moves as “a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive.” “It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory,” Murkowski said in a written statement. “I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska.

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. 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.” But even if Congress doesn’t approve the wilderness designation, Interior can still manage the region in “a way that protects the Wilderness character of the area,” an Interior official said. But the proposal seems unlikely to find support in Congress, now with a Republican majority in both houses and a leadership that has consistently rebuffed Mr. The announcement sets up a major fight with congressional Republicans, who have been spent decades unsuccessfully trying to open the refuge to oil exploration.

The proposed wilderness designation includes the 1.5-million acre coastal plain of ANWR, estimated to contain some 11 billion barrels of recoverable oil. 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.

We wholeheartedly agree and celebrate this announcement by the Obama administration.” Over the coming days, the Obama administration is expected to release a series of policies on conservation and oil and gas drilling.

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