FAIRBANKS — A former governor has blamed “extreme environmentalists” for stifling development of natural resources in Alaska and criticized the Obama administration for siding with the groups and doing nothing about the issue.
Frank Murkowski, a Republican, told the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday that the federal government has resisted developing oil, gas and timber on land it owns in the state, even as an oil boom occurs on private land in in the Lower 48.
“The so-called oil boom? It’s all been on private land, nothing, zippo is on federal land,” Murkowski said in a story by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “I suggest that Alaska is being left behind and that Alaska’s most promising lands are being locked up.”
About two-thirds of land in Alaska is federally owned. State officials have been pushing for the federal government to open more lands for development, particularly in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The vast majority of North Slope oil production so far has come from state land, but the bulk of the potential resources belong to the federal government, a state official has said.
President Barack Obama in 2011 directed his administration to hold annual lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to boost oil production.
Murkowski said the blame for the lack of development should rest with the Obama administration and its political donors, specifically what he called “extreme environmentalists.”
“Is there any reason that (the federal government is) not pursuing development?” he asked. “It’s not pursuing it because of the lobby associated with America’s environmental community.”
Murkowski said environmentalists don’t understand the rest of America. Hindering development is detrimental to providing domestic sources of energy, creating jobs and economic development, he said.
“They don’t have the same concerns that the individual American or Alaskan has. They have a different view of the world,” he said.
Murkowski is a former U.S. senator who served as governor from 2002-2006. He is the father of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.