Arctic drilling advocates draw up wish lists for Trump

ee-newsE&E News | December 12, 2016 | Margaret Kriz Hobson

Shortly before this summer's Republican National Convention, Alaska's all-Republican congressional delegation sent a letter to Donald Trump describing the "incredible bounty" of rich energy and mineral resources waiting to be developed in the state — if only the federal government would get out of the way.

The letter, signed by Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young, all Republicans, accused the Obama administration of repeatedly slapping restrictive environmental controls on the Last Frontier's promising federal onshore and offshore oil fields.

The lawmakers argued that it's time to unleash "Alaska's natural resource potential through new oil, gas, mineral, and renewable resource development [to] create jobs, spur economic opportunity and strengthen our security."

Now President-elect Trump is singing the same song, promising to end "job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy" on public lands.

Those sentiments are shared by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who is expected to be nominated by Trump to head the Interior Department. Rodgers, chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, favors oil and gas development on public lands, opposes the Obama administration's climate policies, and has co-sponsored legislation to sell federal acreage to private interests.

To take advantage of the changing regulatory climate, Alaska's pro-development leaders and industry officials are drawing up wish lists of policy changes that they say would pave the way for much-needed new resource development in the nation's most oil-dependent state.

With roughly 60 percent of the state's lands owned by the federal government, Alaska is heavily controlled by Washington regulators. Industry supporters say the White House has imposed a web of burdensome executive orders and regulations that have discouraged oil drilling at a time when Alaska faces a multibillion-dollar financial crisis caused by low oil prices.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I) is asking the incoming Trump administration to scrap "the regulatory barriers that limit responsible resource development in our state." He said the state is "committed to working with the incoming administration to pursue shared priorities such as energy security, economic stability, and development of our resources. We are eager to responsibly develop our resources in order to provide for our people."

Alaska business leaders want the incoming administration to abolish dozens of environmental and land management restrictions that they say the Obama White House used to place millions of acres of land off-limits to economic development.

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