Murkowski says Alaska oil key to nation's energy policy

Posted: Thursday, May 05, 2005

Citing the importance of opening up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for drilling, passing comprehensive energy legislation and bringing North Slope gas to Lower 48 markets, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Alaska's energy issues are important to the entire country.

"These are all issues of a national scope," Murkowski said Wednesday at Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Giving an update, she said opening ANWR for drilling was closer than it has ever been, adding that there still are obstacles.

Opening ANWR for drilling was attached to a budget bill earlier this year. Murkowski cautioned that passing the budget bill is not going to be easy because there are other hot issues attached to it, as well.

Murkowski also stressed the importance of passing President George W. Bush's energy bill. The bill already passed in the House of Representatives and has yet to pass in the Senate.

The energy bill calls for a variety of actions, such as opening ANWR for drilling, ex-panding the use of nuclear power and providing tax credits for the use of renewable energy sources.

"Most people subscribe to the immaculate conception theory — (energy) just happens," she said.

But with energy prices skyrocketing, Murkowski said more people are starting to pay attention to where their energy comes from. It is important for the public to realize there have been a lot of technological advances since catastrophic events such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Oil and gas exploration is important, and Murkowski said she hopes the public realizes a lot has changed since that event.

However, an energy bill will not pass in the Senate if it does not conduct business this year because of disagreements on judicial filibusters, she said.

Senate Democrats have filibustered some of the Bush's judicial nominations. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has led an effort to ban judicial filibusters. Murkowski has come under fire from groups, such as Focus on the Family and Progress for America, both conservative groups, for not immediately supporting the ban.

On Wednesday, she said she is concerned that if these filibusters are banned, it will shut down the Senate, jeopardizing important issues such as ANWR.

Murkowski said she opposes use of filibusters to block judicial nominees but wants to find a solution without sacrificing other work being done in the senate.

"I'm looking at this very cautiously," she said.

Turning to Alaska issues, she said the state has the capability to help increase domestic energy supplies with its large natural gas reserves on the North Slope. She said she worked on federal tax incentives to ensure a North Slope gas pipeline is built to bring gas to Lower 48 markets. Those incentives passed last year.

"It's in our best interest — it's in the country's best interest," she said.

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