U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) this weekend inspected the nation's third-largest oil producing region during a two-day tour of northern Alaska.
Murkowski, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Hoeven, one of the committee's most active members, viewed North Slope facilities on state-owned land responsible for producing 13 percent of the nation's oil.
"As the Arctic becomes more accessible and worldwide demand for oil continues to increase, Alaska's northern region will prove increasingly important in terms of national security and global commerce in coming years," Murkowski said. "That's why it is critical my Senate colleagues understand the strategic importance Alaska's vast natural resources represent."
The senators also visited the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska -- lands owned by the federal government with massive oil and natural gas potential, but where energy development is either prohibited by law or slowed to a standstill by overly burdensome regulation. Alaska's northern lands and waters hold an estimated 40 billion barrels of oil, but most of those resources remain out of reach under federal lock and key.
The senators' travel included a stop in Kaktovik, the only community located inside the boundaries of ANWR, to meet with local officials, village elders and whaling captains. The traditional Inupiat Eskimo community, situated on Barter Island on ANWR's coastal plain, would see fundamental improvements to its economy if the federal government allowed oil production in the reserve.
The trip also included a visit to ConocoPhillips' Alpine field on the eastern edge of the NPR-A. Despite being designated as a federal petroleum reserve, it took four years for ConocoPhillips to receive a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to build infrastructure necessary to develop leases within the petroleum reserve. The Interior Department is currently considering banning energy development on huge portions of the NPR-A, despite the region being set aside for that purpose.
The senators also made stops in the NPR-A to view oil wells drilled by the federal government decades ago that are still awaiting cleanup by the Interior Department some 40 years later.
Murkowski said the contrast between the work being done by private companies on state-owned lands and the abandoned wells that were drilled in the NPR-A by the federal government but never cleaned up represents the height of hypocrisy on the part of federal officials.
"Federal officials continuously act like they have to protect Alaska from the people who actually live here, but when it comes to the way the federal government actually treats the land -- our land -- they play by their own rules," Murkowski said. "A private company would never be allowed to leave the land in such a horrible state."
The senators also met with U.S. Coast Guard and military officials, as well as state leaders, to discuss current and future plans for Arctic offshore exploration and regional infrastructure needs.
Murkowski and Hoeven have been working closely to advance the nation's energy policies and bolster the natural resource development economy.
"Joining Sen. Murkowski and seeing firsthand Alaska's energy production facilities will help in our work to advance our nation's energy goals," Hoeven said. "North Dakota and Alaska are the number two and three oil producing states in this nation, and with the right energy policies in place our states can help our country to become energy secure, while creating good jobs and economic growth."
North Dakota recently overtook Alaska to become the second-largest oil producer in the country. As North Dakota's governor for a decade before joining the Senate, Hoeven helped oversee the state's energy boom.
Murkowski recently introduced the Offshore Petroleum Expansion Now Act (S.3438) -- OPEN Act -- to expand by a dozen lease sales the administrations proposed 2012-2017 leasing plan. Murkowski's bill, which Hoeven cosponsored, would also provide revenue sharing for Alaska and any other coastal state with production off its shores.
Hoeven has introduced the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3445), which includes 13 measures designed to lower energy costs for American families and businesses, but also spur badly needed economic growth and job creation across the U.S. economy. Murkowski is a cosponsor of the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, which would streamline and simplify regulations, boost domestic energy supplies, build American energy infrastructure and safeguard America's supply of critical minerals.
"We truly need to implement policies that allow us access to our natural resources for the good of the nation's energy security, as well as the jobs that would come with responsible development," Murkowski said. "We have tremendous reserves, we have the technological know-how, and we have incredible public support. The only thing standing in our way is