Murkowski hammers Obama admin over energy restrictions

By Phil Taylor | 11/02/2015 06:45 AM EST

A leading Senate Republican hammered the Obama administration over the weekend for energy policies she claimed threaten the nation’s security and jobs.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the administration’s decisions "ignore the will of hard-working Alaskans" by closing the door to new oil production needed to sustain the Trans-Alaska pipeline.

"These decisions mean fewer jobs, less security for our country, and more of our dollars going overseas," Murkowski said in the weekly Republican address to the nation, which aired Saturday. "It is only a matter of time until the administration applies this shortsighted strategy to the rest of our nation."

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Murkowski, the chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, took specific aim at Interior Department decisions to reduce access to oil and gas resources in the National Petroleum Reserve; recommend wilderness protections on the oil-rich coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; impose a "constantly-shifting regulatory environment" in the Chukchi Sea that contributed to Royal Dutch Shell PLC abandoning its $7 billion exploration program; and cancel two future oil and gas lease sales in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

"Since taking office, the Obama administration has repeatedly denied Alaska’s best opportunities to produce energy for our nation and the world," Murkowski said. "I want to highlight what is happening in my home state, because it foreshadows challenges to come all across our nation."

Murkowski also criticized U.S. EPA rules to reduce ozone and greenhouse gas pollution and its Waters of the U.S. rule, which increases the number of waterways that are covered by the Clean Water Act.

She touted a "better path" that includes her committee’s passage in July of a comprehensive energy package that advanced on an 18-4 vote, as well as efforts to build bipartisan support for lifting the ban on crude oil exports.

Murkowski has introduced bills to block the administration’s policies in Alaska, including S. 494 to open a small percentage of ANWR to drilling and S. 2011 to extend lease terms and require new lease sales in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas as well as share offshore revenues with coastal communities.

The Alaskan lawmaker doesn’t have the votes to pass either of those measures, but her role as the chairwoman of the Appropriations panel that funds Interior gives her unique leverage as lawmakers seek to pass an omnibus spending bill before Dec. 11.

The Appropriations Committee passed a fiscal 2016 spending bill during the summer authored by Murkowski that contained policy riders targeting EPA’s Clean Power Plan, its WOTUS rule, the Bureau of Land Management’s hydraulic fracturing rule and EPA’s proposed update of federal air quality standards for ozone, among other administration priorities.

While it will be tough to get any of those policy riders enacted into law, Murkowski may use her post to advance lower-profile Alaska priorities in the spending bill. A prime example is language included in the committee-passed bill to authorize a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, a route Murkowski said is critical to the health and safety of the remote Alaskan city of King Cove.

The administration will have to negotiate with Murkowski and other Republicans over a host of other policy riders that could emerge in a spending bill, with issues ranging from gray wolves to lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle.

Administration officials will also have to negotiate with Murkowski and her colleagues over how to allocate funding within Interior, EPA and the Forest Service. If the administration wants robust funding for its favored programs — such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund — it may have to make funding or policy concessions elsewhere.

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