Committee issues ANWR language
In a next step towards opening the coastal plain of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas development, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has issued language authorizing a competitive oil and gas program in the refuge and specifying corresponding amendments to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The language will go into an upcoming budget reconciliation bill, as a means of obtaining at least $1 billion of new revenue for inclusion in the federal budget.
The idea is that, by avoiding the risk of a filibuster against dedicated ANWR legislation, the inclusion of the ANWR provision within the budget reconciliation bill will enable the Senate to approve the opening of ANWR with just a simple majority of 51 votes. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the ANWR provision will raise $1.1 billion over the 10-year budget window.
The proposed legislation involves a royalty rate of 16.67 percent for oil production from ANWR, with 50 percent of the royalties going to Alaska and the remainder to the federal government. The secretary of the Interior must hold at least two areawide lease sales within the 10-year window, with the first sale taking place within four years of the legislation being enacted and each lease sale encompassing at least 400,000 acres, including areas with the highest potential for hydrocarbon discoveries. Total surface development on refuge land is limited to 2,000 acres.
The legislation also requires the secretary of the Interior to issue any necessary rights of way for access across the ANWR coastal plain for oil and gas related activities.
The Alaska congressional delegation has expressed its satisfaction with the ANWR proposal.
“This legislation is a tremendous opportunity for both Alaska and our country,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “The legislation I released tonight will put us on a path toward greater prosperity by creating jobs, keeping energy affordable for families and businesses, generating new wealth, and strengthening our security - while reducing the federal deficit not just by $1 billion over ten years, but tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars over the decades to come.”
- ALAN BAILEY