Murkowski ends 'energy tour'

Lisa Demer

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on Monday wrapped up an "energy tour" of Alaska with Democratic colleague Ron Wyden of Oregon that included a renewable energy fair, a geothermal plant at Chena Hot Springs, and an offshore oil platform in Cook Inlet.

She had a big reason.

"You're looking at the chairman of the energy committee here. And we're not sure if I'm looking at him or he's looking at me."

Depending on how the November elections go, either she or Wyden is poised to become chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the other will be the ranking minority member, a position Murkowski already holds.

She and Wyden took time out Monday afternoon to meet with reporters at Stevens International Airport. Both said they are bipartisan partners on energy.

"This has been so helpful," Wyden said of the trip, his first in Alaska focused on energy issues. "Sen. Murkowski had me understand the costs of all this gridlock back in Washington, D.C. It's hurting us and our efforts to become energy independent. And energy independence and creating more good-paying jobs go hand in hand."

Wyden said he was especially impressed by independent oil company Hilcorp Alaska's work in Cook Inlet to modernize existing wells and draw up more oil and gas, without a bigger footprint. Both environmentalists and pro-development interests should support that approach, he said.

He said he wanted to learn more about three big oil issues important to Alaska, but wasn't ready to commit to a position. Those matters are: offshore development such as what Shell Oil Co. is trying to do in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The three "are all separate projects. They ought to be evaluated separately, and I'm going to be talking extensively with your two United States senators, Sen. Murkowski and Sen. (Mark) Begich, about them," Wyden said.

He also said he would consider legislation, backed by Murkowski, to give the state of Alaska and local communities and groups a share of any federal revenue from offshore production.

Reach Lisa Demer at or 257-4390.

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