Senate Committee holds hearing over possible drilling in ANWR

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge debate continues in Washington. A Senate Committee held a hearing Thursday to examine both sides of the debate over drilling in ANWR. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is an avid supporter of energy exploration in ANWR, but some witnesses she questioned want the land left alone.

Pat Pourchot says ANWR is the last place drilling should take place.

“I have come to the conclusion that the last piece of America’s Arctic is more appropriately left as wilderness,” said Pat Pourchot, former Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior for Alaska Affairs.

Pourchot was called before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to testify on the prospect of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. His message to the Committee: stay out.

“The Coastal Plains, one of the most productive areas of the refuge, is the last piece of America’s Arctic Coastal Plain that is not open for oil and gas development,” said Pourchot.

Pourchot says development in the region would impact wildlife like the Porcupine caribou herd.
The herd is a major food source for the Native Gwich’in tribe.

“This is part of our natural heritage that should be protected and preserved for our future generations,” said Pourchot.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) called for the hearing. She says drilling in this portion of ANWR can be done safely and generate the revenue that Congress called for in its budget proposal.

“We’ve got an extraordinary resource, we know how we can access it responsibly, and now what we need is the permission to move forward,” said Murkowski.

The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has to create legislation to authorize drilling. She invited witnesses who testified that wildlife would not be harmed. One witness said it would be a huge economic benefit for his tribe. Alaska Governor Bill Walker came to Capitol Hill and said people in places like Kaktovik want this development.

“They came to me, one-on-one, and said when will this happen? When will this happen? And so I think that’s a strong message,” said Walker.

The Committee has until Nov. 13 to pass authorization legislation.