The Obama Administration’s announcement of plans to expand protection in ANWR is a ‘declaration of war’ says Alaskan Congresswoman

The White House released a revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan Sunday, which will designate 12.28 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as wilderness. The new designation would mean that no new drilling could take place in the region. The Department of Interior said this decision would help preserve one of “the nation’s crown jewels,” but the response from Alaskan Republicans has been fiery.

“What’s coming is a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL). Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AL) went further, saying the move confirmed “the Obama administration’s war against Alaska families.”

Low oil prices have put a great deal of pressure on Alaska, which relies on oil revenue for 85% of the state’s revenue, and one-third of Alaskan jobs, reports The Wall Street Journal. The state is also facing a $3.5 billion deficit this year as prices remain low.

The White House has said that while it believes that oil and natural gas resources can be safely developed, any mishap in ANWR could cause irreversible damage to an ecologically important part of the United States. The legality of the decision has been called into question.

In 1980, Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which put large tracts of land under protection, but in return there was a clause declaring “no more” wilderness designations in Alaska unless approved by Congress, reports The Wall Street Journal. With the new Republican Congress being very energy friendly, it seems unlikely that they will support an expanded wilderness designation.

The coastal plain holds 10.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates. Developing the resources in ANWR could help Alaska maintain or grow production that has been waning for decades. Without access to these resources, Alaska could face even greater economic pressure in the future.

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