The state House today approved spending $1.1 million more this year to push opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
The measure passed 32-2, with two Democrats, including Rep. Beth Kerttula of Juneau, voting against it.
The bill would give $1 million to the nonprofit lobbying group Arctic Power and $100,000 to the city of Kaktovik.
The spending would bring to $3 million the state money provided to Arctic Power in the fiscal year that ends June 30, said Arctic Power Executive Director Kim Duke. Duke said the group plans to spend the extra $1 million from House Bill 334 on a "very intense" three-month campaign.
The Kaktovik funding is intended to help that city prepare a video in support of opening ANWR and help defray its expenses in handling the influx of visitors who pass through on the way to the refuge.
Rep. Albert Kookesh voted in favor of the bill, but questioned whether Arctic Power was getting the job done. The state has given the group $6 million since 1993, Kookesh said, but ANWR still is closed to oil drilling.
"I'd be concerned about the money we're putting into this and the amount of results we're getting back," said Kookesh, an Angoon Democrat.
Rep. Eldon Mulder urged lawmakers to pass the bill, saying prospects for opening ANWR have improved significantly since last year.
"Hopefully this investment will produce large returns to the state of Alaska," said Mulder, an Anchorage Republican.
Kerttula opposed the bill, in part because Gwich'in Athabascans of Arctic Village oppose drilling.
She also voted no because the bill did not include fast-track funding to help the seafood and tourism industries. Kerttula tried to amend the bill to include $10 million to market Alaska salmon and help the troubled seafood industry fend off market encroachment by the farmed salmon industry.
She also asked for $10 million to help the tourism industry rebound financially from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, saying cruise lines and small businesses face a "real economic problem."
"We're going to see bankruptcies," Kerttula said. "This is going to be your neighbors, it's going to be our friends."
Mulder said he was sympathetic to the industries and did not rule out approving the tourism appropriation later in the session. The amendment failed 25-10 with Juneau Republican Rep. Bill Hudson voting no.
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