In his single-minded drive to force the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, Gov. Frank Murkowski is not averse to the use of underhanded tactics. Lately he's been warning that Alaska could start selling oil leases offshore from the refuge in waters controlled by the state. This way, he hopes, even if Congress doesn't approve oil and gas development on land, the drill-fest could begin.
There are just a few little problems. For one thing, the oil companies aren't interested. The state has offered leases the last two years in a row and has yet to receive a bid. For another, local residents, the villagers of Kaktovik, don't want offshore drilling. And one other detail, the plan is not practical. Unless Congress were to give the refuge over to the drillers, oil from offshore platforms would have to travel along the coast until it could go ashore on state land, outside the boundaries of the refuge.
And then there are the environmental dangers of drilling in those ice-choked waters, the inevitable pollution associated with oil operations, and the distinct possibility of another major spill.
You'd think Murkowski would get a clue. There are good reasons that no one is interested in his offshore plan, just as there are good reasons that the public remains opposed to development in our premier Arctic wildlife sanctuary. He should stop trying to get in through the back door and leave the decision on the fate of the refuge to Congress and the American people.
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