Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan met with President Trump last week in Washington to give their perspective on issues facing the state and the important reasons why Arctic access should be at the top of the administration’s energy platform. The Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also attended the meeting. Both Senators advocated for the reopening of the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for energy exploration and their comments were well received by the new administration.
During the meeting, the Alaskan senators addressed a myriad of issues, such as Alaska’s current fiscal crisis, job creation, and infrastructure needs. All of these issues can be tied back to energy production in the state, making Arctic drilling a primary focus of the discussion. Senator Murkowski expressed optimism in Alaska’s ability to contribute America’s economic prosperity, stating:
“We made sure there is a recognition that Alaska can be an extraordinary contributor to our nation’s economic strength and our energy security and we want to be there to help, Alaskans want to be there to help. But you need to have a willing partner in your government to do that and today we had very good signs that we’ve got a willing partner in this administration.”
It is clear that Secretary Zinke is a willing partner when it comes to optimizing America’s energy portfolio and opening up the Arctic. When asked about Obama’s last minute Arctic drilling ban during his confirmation hearings, he expressed his belief that the decision could be overturned, but it must be done carefully in order to withstand legal challenges. Zinke also advocated for more federally-controlled areas to be available for leasing in areas where responsible development can occur. He emphasized the importance of domestically-produced energy:
“The president-elect has said we want to be energy independent during his Senate confirmation hearing. I can guarantee you it is better to produce energy domestically under reasonable regulation, than watch it be produced overseas with no regulation.”
“There is no interest if you can’t do it. You have to make it available. If we take it away and say you can’t do this you have as self-fulfilling prophecy.”
As Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the Senate, Sen. Murkowski is in a great position to move the needle on Arctic development. She has been a vocal champion of Arctic energy for decades, but unfortunately the previous administration curtailed Arctic access. Hopefully having allies in this new administration who understand the potential that lies in the region will open the door for future investment.
Meeting with President Trump and Secretary Zinke is an important first step to get things moving in the Arctic. The Executive branch possess the power to fix some of the stifling regulations put in place for the region, while also shepherding new policies that will give the region a prosperous future. Here’s to making Arctic energy front of mind for Washington’s lead policy makers.