U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski took one of her Republican colleagues on a tour this weekend of Alaska's northern oil fields and of federally owned wells still awaiting cleanup by the Bureau of Land Management decades after they were drilled and abandoned.
Murkowski and Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota serve on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where she is the ranking Republican and he is one of the most active members.
Murkowski said they toured the Conoco Phillips Alpine field and were impressed by the strict environmental standards. For example, rain puddles that form on gravel pads can't run off into the tundra and must be vacuumed up by heavy equipment.
That contrasts with the abandoned wells on federal land, sometimes called legacy wells - a misnomer, she said. Their helicopter touched down so they could see at least four wells close up. Murkowski described one where a pipe sticking out of the ground was surrounded by oily water, caribou tracks and debris dating back to the 1940s.
"This is horrid in terms of what our own federal government has done and allowed to happen," said Murkowski, who has been pushing for BLM cleanup of the old test wells.
Hoeven, who noted that North Dakota has passed Alaska in oil production, said he wants to encourage more development in Alaska to help the country reach a goal of producing more energy than it consumes. Seeing the operation of Alaska oil fields will help him advocate for that, he said. Operators are using "the latest, greatest technology," he said.
Both he and Murkowski have introduced legislation in Congress to improve federal management of energy resources.