Alaska editorial: Here we go again: Opponents of opening ANWR renew push to block oil drilling

Posted: Friday, November 26, 2010

The following editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

Sen. Joe Lieberman and 24 Democratic senators in the Senate have sent a letter asking President Barack Obama to grant greater protection to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And national environmental groups have begun an advertising effort aimed at getting the president to make the refuge a national monument, a move that would give it the same type of protection as that given to the birthplace in Virginia of George Washington and to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War rang out.

It's amazing what an election shakeup can do.

And that's precisely what this is all about. Environmental groups and their largely Democratic allies in Congress fear a renewed push to open ANWR to oil drilling is about to occur now that Republicans have won control of the House and have gained ground on Democrats in the Senate.

The senators, in the letter, ask the president to grant "the strongest possible protections" to ANWR. They want the protections so "we can pass this unspoiled American treasure to our children and grandchildren."

Alaska's congressional delegation has fought this battle many times before and, though the makeup of the delegation has changed a little, its three members remain united in their belief that ANWR can be responsibly and safely developed to provide the oil the nation needs. Sen. Mark Begich had particularly harsh words for his fellow Democrats on Friday. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, Republicans, have been regular and strong advocates for developing ANWR.

But they and others continually run into people who fail to see that the nation needs the energy resource that lies beneath the refuge's coastal plain. And those who oppose opening ANWR also fail to see that technology has advanced so much over the years that the oil industry imprint on the coastal plain would be many times smaller than it would have been years ago. The advent of directional drilling, for example, means the "unspoiled American treasure" in Lieberman's letter can remain that way to a much greater extent.

It's time for Alaska to again join the fight against those who misrepresent ANWR and the oil industry that operates in this state.

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