Back in 2008, longtime Alaska Congressman Don Young drew a Republican primary challenge from Sean Parnell, then the state’s lieutenant governor.
During the campaign, Young would taunt Parnell, calling him “Capt. Zero.”
Ultimately, Young would win re-election. Today, he remains in Congress, while Parnell occupies the governor’s mansion.
And apparently, Parnell is no longer a zero in Young’s eyes, as the congressman is lending active support to Parnell’s high-profile proposal to conduct seismic surveys in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Obama administration is now weighing the state’s ANWR application.
On July 17, the House Natural Resources Committee, of which Young is a senior member, heard testimony from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
Jewell has been in the position only since April.
During the hearing, Young suggested Jewell read ANILCA, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, which has a key section pertaining to ANWR’s highly prospective coastal plain.
“Under that act, there’s some requirements you have to meet,” Young told Jewell. “If the state makes a proposal, you have to respond. We’ll be watching this very closely, because if you don’t you’ll be breaking the law. And, you know, this is not the correct way to handle things. This is about utilization of federal lands and how we develop them.”
Parnell and his natural resources commissioner, Dan Sullivan, on July 9 announced the state had applied to the Interior Department, under ANILCA, for a “special use permit” for 3-D seismic surveys across the coastal plain from 2014 to 2017.
The governor and Sullivan say Section 1002(e) of ANILCA requires the secretary to promptly publish a notice of any such application, to hold a hearing within the state, and to make a decision within 120 days on whether the plan can be approved.
Parnell and Sullivan say a modern assessment of the coastal plain’s potential oil and gas riches is needed to better inform the debate on whether to open the refuge. They say the surveys could be done with little or no impact to the tundra and wildlife.
The governor’s proposal, however, would appear to have little chance of approval.
Jewell already has indicated the Obama administration opposes drilling in ANWR. And she has said ANILCA’s authorization for exploratory activity expired long ago.
Bill provides matching federal fundsYoung announced July 24 that a bill had cleared the committee with language “requiring the Secretary of Interior to provide up to $50 million in matching funding for joint projects with states interested in oil and gas resource assessments on federal lands.”
The bill is called the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act (H.R. 1965).
As part of his ANWR seismic application, Parnell pledged to seek at least $50 million from the Alaska Legislature to execute the plan.
H.R. 1965 would “aid Gov. Parnell’s proposal,” Young said.
“As I have said before, I applaud Gov. Parnell for his continued leadership on developing ANWR and I am pleased to support his innovative proposal through the federal matching funds provided in this legislation, which builds on the generous funding the State has already offered to move this plan forward,” the congressman said.
Young also pledged to keep working to open ANWR outright to industry activity.
“A longtime advocate for responsible development in ANWR, Rep. Young has successfully passed legislation to open up ANWR 12 times, as recently as 2012, and intends to do so again in the 113th Congress,” said a July 17 press release from Young’s office.