Senate passes ANWR resolution urging lease sales

It will go to the House next.

The Alaska Senate hopes to make its position on oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge clear, with Senate Joint Resolution 7, which was passed Monday with a 16-2 vote. Anchorage Democratic Sens. Tom Begich and Elvi Gray-Jackson carried the dissenting votes.

The resolution has been referred to the House Resources Committee.

The joint resolution says, “the Alaska State Legislature requests that the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, implement an oil and gas leasing program in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as outlined in the December 2018 Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program Draft Environmental Impact Statement.”

Alaska’s congressional delegation had worked to open the 1002-area of the coastal plain to oil and gas development for decades. When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed in December 2017, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, worked to insert a provision in the act to open ANWR to development. Alaska and the federal government agreed upon a 50-50 split on revenues.

Three Senate Democrats tried making amendments to the resolution, but two were struck down:

• Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, offered an amendment to Senate Joint Resolution 7 to add language encouraging the oil and gas industry to use “the state’s workforce to the maximum extent possible.” The resolution urges the U.S. Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management “to implement an oil and gas leasing program in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

• Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, has introduced a third amendment to Senate Joint Resolution 7, inserting language “that protects the environment and the naturally occurring population levels of the Porcupine and Central Arctic caribou herds, on which Inupiat, Gwich’in, and other local residents depend.”

Republicans were not necessarily against the amendments, but they argued that this was not the right time to make these amendments, so they were each struck down.

The Senate debated an amendment from Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, which would urge an increase of the share of royalties coming into Alaska to a 90 percent-10 percent split with the federal government.

After several objections and a conversation with Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole,Wielechowski withdrew his amendment.

You can read the 392-page draft of the Coastal Plain Environmental Impact Statement and make comments through March 13.

• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-5523 or Follow him on Twitter at @alaska_kev.