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Senator blasts federal rejection of refuge road

Posted: February 20, 2014 - 12:24am
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Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski poses with female members of the legislature after her annual speech to a joint session of the legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski poses with female members of the legislature after her annual speech to a joint session of the legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday.

JUNEAU — The Interior Department’s rejection of a road through a national wildlife refuge that could aid patients in a small Alaska village is emblematic of a bigger problem between the state and federal government, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski told state lawmakers Wednesday.

In December, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell rejected a proposed land swap to build a gravel road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, which shelters millions of migratory waterfowl.

Residents of King Cove want road access to an all-weather airport at Cold Bay for medical flights.

Murkowski, a Republican, told lawmakers there was more at stake than just a road. She said Jewell’s decision was emblematic of how “the federal government believes that it has to somehow protect Alaska from Alaskans. That we can’t be counted on to be good stewards of the land that we have fought for and we have worked for and we have raised our children up to honor and respect.”

Environmental groups bitterly oppose the road, noting that Congress in 1997 addressed King Cove transportation needs and appropriated $37.5 million for water access to Cold Bay that included a $9 million hovercraft. They also contend a road is just as likely as air transportation to be closed by the area’s notorious winds and snow.

Murkowski, however, said to applause that the only thing standing in the way of a road is a federal government that says, “somehow, we need to make sure that every bird is protected before the lives of Alaskans will be protected. That’s wrong. That is absolutely wrong.”

Murkowski told reporters later that she would continue to press the case with Jewell and was even considering holding up nominations by the administration.

She said she has heard people in Washington make the argument about the road being closed by snow. “That only happens in Washington, D.C.,” she quipped.

A major theme of Murkowski’s address to a joint session of the Legislature was federal overreach and restrictions.

She told lawmakers the state must be aggressive in developing lands where it has some control, and that she admired lawmakers’ “courage” in passing an oil tax cut last year that she said promotes investment.

She told reporters that the tax cut was about making Alaska competitive with other oil-producing areas. Voters in August will decide whether to repeal the hotly debated tax cut, which critics see as a giveaway to the industry with no guarantee about what Alaska will get in return.

Murkowski said the Legislature has taken serious steps to try to boost oil flow through the trans-Alaska pipeline system and that it is long past time for the federal government to do the same.

While the Interior Department has sold leases in Arctic waters off Alaska, it has not yet shown that it actually wants development to occur, the senator said.

Restrictions on roads in Tongass National Forest are choking the last of southeast Alaska’s timber industry and limiting the ability to build out renewable energy resources, Murkowski added.

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James Coleman
James Coleman 02/20/14 - 06:51 am
Go Senator Murkowski

Keep up the good work. Don't let Alaska become another broke liberal state that shuts down all its sources of revenue while expanding entitlements. Stand up to Fed gov overreach. No science was used in blocking the King Cove road. A DC bureaucrat simply came here and "looked around" and decided for us.

Tim Miller
Tim Miller 02/20/14 - 09:45 am
The King Cove road would

This road would also balloon government spending and more.

The King Cove road would go right through federal land designated critical refuge and wilderness area. You have to wonder why now after generations of Alaskan families that have chosen to live in this extreme remote area now require a road to survive. That the multi- millions of federal dollars spent to provide other means of transportation for these people is now not good enough. We have to stop subsidizing the people that want to live in remote locations. Half of our states transportations costs are now covered by federal dollars. In addition, if we start allowing road building in wilderness areas then we won't have wilderness areas. And if we allow this road, then all the other wilderness areas in our country will be able to have roads and then development. This is a backdoor attempt at dismantling the protections of ALL wilderness areas in our country for oil, gas, and mineral explorations especially our countries crown jewel the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
If you like to hunt and fish, we need wilderness areas and especially places like Izembek National Wildlife Refuge an area which is also recognized as a Wetland of International Importance by the RAMSAR Convention. Its really shameful of Lisa to minimize the importance of this area and to mischaracterize what she is truly up to.

Lisa Murkowski and Sean Parnell are both hypocrites.

Lisa said she admired lawmakers’ “courage” in passing an oil tax cut last year. This should tell everyone who she is really looking out for in the King Cove road debate, which is the oil industry. Don't ever forget Lisa Murkowski represents the oil, gas, mining industry, her biggest donors.

Tim Miller
Tim Miller 02/20/14 - 09:49 am
Murkowski wants to end oil export ban.

"Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ak., called for ending the federal ban on crude oil exports Tuesday, saying that current regulations were designed in an era of "scarcity" and that maintaining them would stifle domestic production."

"But supporters of the ban say the U.S. would be dealing away long-sought freedom from relying on less-friendly nations for oil, and some have raised concerns about the impact on domestic gas prices. Some refineries also might take a hit, as export of refined petroleum products, which is allowed, is thriving."

From the Washington examiner article Jan 7, 2014


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