Alaskans gear up for ANWR drilling following passage of Senate budget resolution

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Republicans in Washington are drilling for some revenue. Passed as a part of the Senate budget resolution, the GOP included language that could open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for energy exploration. A controversial move years in the making, opponents of the move want big energy companies far away from the area. Supporters in Alaska say they’re thrilled the wait is finally over.

Sarah Erkmann Ward says drilling in ANWR could help the Alaska economy boom.

“It would be a huge economic boom for Alaska, frankly at a time when we need it most,” said Sarah Erkmann Ward, external affairs manager at Alaska Oil and Gas Association.

Erkmann Ward says this can be done in a safe manner and get the Alaska economy moving again.

“We can hopefully grow our way out of our recession and put more oil in the pipeline, more revenue for the state, more jobs for Alaskans,” said Erkmann Ward.

Alaska’s senators are also gung-ho about the idea of the U.S. being energy dominant. They say attaching this proposal to the budget resolution makes sense because more revenue can cut the national deficit.

“Why would we limit opportunity to create new wealth in this country?” said Sen. Lisa Murkowsk (R-AK).

“No one in the world produces energy more responsibly than Americans...especially Alaskans,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK).

There was a failed effort from Democrats to take ANWR drilling out of the budget resolution. Environmental groups are hammering its inclusion in the resolution. They argue more public comment is needed before a protected ecosystem is destroyed in a rush to develop revenue.

“This is not a tax issue, this is not a budget issue. This is about Republicans in Congress trying to give yet another handout to big oil,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, vice president of government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters.

Sittenfeld says ANWR is one of the largest intact ecosystems left on earth. She says harming wildlife and native people is the wrong way to address the national deficit.

“It is time to really move toward a clean energy economy and drilling in the Arctic Refuge is exactly the wrong direction,” said Sittenfeld.

The budget proposal now waits for a vote in the House.

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