Republicans lashed out at Sunday’s announcement by President Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that they would lock up 12 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“This is the first time a president has called for the Coastal Plains within the refuge to be designated as wilderness,” presidential counsel John Podesta told reporters today. “…Simply put, the Coastal Plains, known by Alaska natives as ‘The Sacred Place Where Life Begins,’ is too precious not to protect. And while it is currently administration policy to prohibit the development in the Coastal Plains, President Obama believes that those protections should extend in perpetuity through a wilderness designation, the highest level of public land protection in the United States.”
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the decision “to lock up millions of acres and 40 billion barrels of untapped resources in Alaska will greatly hinder economic opportunity across the state and further hamper America’s pursuit for energy independence.”
“It’s one thing for the president to say he is for building a strong middle class, but his policies are working against his own rhetoric,” Inhofe said. “Most alarmingly, the president once again ignored the law and trampled on state’s rights in order to solidify his legacy with his liberal base.”
“With the Department of Interior’s plan to immediately place millions of acres of ANWR off limits, the nation is seeing federal government overreach at its finest. This action will not be tolerated in the new Congress.”
Podesta said he “was hoping that a more balanced reaction would be forthcoming from some of the people who have commented on this.”
“We’ve tried to work with producers, including Shell, which is drilling offshore in the Arctic. But the Coastal Plain, with its magnificent wildlife and its important place in the ecosystem — it’s the birthing grounds for the porcupine caribou — is just a place that should be off-limits to oil and gas drilling,” he said, noting he didn’t “think that the reaction that particularly Senator Murkowski had to this announcement was warranted.”
The Alaska Republican said that “what’s coming is a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive.”
“It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory. The promises made to us at statehood, and since then, mean absolutely nothing to them. I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska. But we will not be run over like this. We will fight back with every resource at our disposal,” Murkowski lashed out in a statement.
“These decisions simply cannot be allowed to stand,” she added. “I have tried to work with this administration – even though they’ve made it extremely difficult every step of the way – but those days are officially over. We are left with no choice but to hit back as hard as we can.”
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) said the “callously planned and politically motivated attack on Alaska by the Obama administration is akin to spitting in our faces and telling us it’s raining outside.”
“As if on command from the most extreme environmentalist elements, this president and his team of D.C. bureaucrats believe they alone know what’s best for Alaska, but this brazen assault on our state and our people will do the complete opposite. Every time the president undermines the law of the land, he breaks his oath of office and weakens the nation we love,” Young said, calling the “widespread attack on our people and our way of life… disgusting.”