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Juneau – Wednesday, the Alaska State Senate joined the Alaska House of Representatives in approving House Joint Resolution 5, urging the United States Congress to pass legislation to open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas development.
The resolution, sponsored by Representative Dean Westlake (D-Kotzebue), underwent minor changes in the Senate and will be taken up again by the Alaska House on Friday. After concurrence, HJR 5 will be forwarded to Congress and President Donald Trump for consideration when developing policy regarding increased oil and gas exploration and development on federal lands in Alaska.
“ANWR holds tremendous untapped oil and gas resources that can be safely developed to the benefit of Alaska, the nation, and the world,” said Rep. Westlake. “This resolution expresses the will of the people of Alaska and the Alaska Legislature that it’s time to end the partisan gridlock in Washington D.C. by putting aside politics and listening to what the people want.”
A United States Geological Survey (USGS) study of the 1002 area of ANWR conducted in 1998 estimated the oil reserves at over 10 billion barrels. That same study estimated that the central North Slope and the 1002 area could contain up to 46 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
“The oil industry in Alaska supports thousands of jobs and is a vital pillar of our economy. Imagine the new jobs that can be created if we can find a way to unlock the economic potential of ANWR by taking the shackles off the industry and letting them do what they do best, which is find and produce oil and gas,” said Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham).
In addition to asking for approval to open up the coastal plain of ANWR, HJR 5 recognizes the states long standing support for renewable and alternative energy resources.Earlier this month, HJR 5 passed the Alaska House of Representatives by a vote of 31-4. Today, the Alaska Senate passed the resolution by a vote of 18-2.
The Alaska National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1980 with the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which designated nearly 19.5 million acres as wildlife refuge. Section 1002 of ANILCA set aside 1.5 million acres for possible oil and gas development, but it would take an act of Congress for that development to move forward.
“The ability of the oil industry to safely operate in the Arctic is evidenced by the responsible development of Prudhoe Bay and other fields,” said Rep. Westlake. “I have no doubt that legislation can be crafted in Congress that can allow for development in ANWR while protecting the natural environment and the subsistence resources that are vital to my region.”
HJR 5 includes language specifically calling for any oil and gas exploration and development that occurs within ANWR to be conducted in a manner that protects the environment and the Central Arctic and Porcupine caribou that sustain the residents of the North Slope.