Sen. Lisa Murkowski was "really ticked off" after touring old oil exploratory wells in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska on the North Slope in August. She had flown north with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., to inspect the fields, which are heavily polluted from drilling conducted by the federal government in the mid-twentieth century. She was disgusted to find pools of oily water, rusted pipes and old drums strewn across the land, which is currently so regulated that private oil companies are prohibited from leaving behind so much as a gum wrapper.
Murkowski walked away from the trip determined to find a way to prioritize funding within the Bureau of Land Management budget for an NPR-A clean-up. Less than two months later, she has apparently succeeded.
In a press release sent out Tuesday, Murkowski announced that funding for the legacy well clean-up had been secured through the 2013 Interior Appropriations bill. All told, funds for clean up should increase from $1 million in 2012 to $6.5 million in 2013, and should mean improvements to the heavily polluted land.
"Uncapped wells are a blight on our state, and the federal government is derelict in their duty to Alaska," Murkowski said in the press release. "If this were a private oil company, Alaska could be looking at billions in fines for the lack of responsivity -- so my colleagues on the Interior appropriations committee saw an increase in the funding levels as something far overdue."