Politics

Murkowski: Russian aggression shows importance of resource extraction in Alaska

Murkowski speech

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is using Russian aggression towards Ukraine to call for investment in resource extraction in Alaska to supplant oil and mineral imports from Russia and other foreign powers.

“No administration should defend a Russian pipeline instead of refilling ours,” the Republican senator, widely seen as a moderate, said in her annual address to the state Legislature on Tuesday.

Murkowski said a full scale invasion of Russian forces in Ukraine could have “massive implications” for Alaska, given the state’s proximity to Russia’s eastern border. In her speech, she made the case for one of those implications to be increased natural resource extraction in Alaska.

“The Arctic has always been known as a zone of peace and we want to keep it that way. But think about the tension now that you are seeing at play,” she said. “It has the potential to create frictions and tension that we don’t know where they may end.”

A third of Europe’s natural gas comes from Russia, raising concerns over the continent’s energy supply in the case of a prolonged conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Murkowski said the U.S. should see this is a teaching moment.

“You have got a real dilemma. Because as much as they want to say, ‘No, Putin, you cannot rearrange the global world order here,’ they need to keep their homes warm. They need the gas. They are extraordinarily vulnerable,” she said.

[Related: Russian troops in Ukraine spell uncertainty for oil and natural gas markets]

Murkowski called President Joe Biden’s resource extraction policy “incoherent.” Biden’s administration has repeatedly blocked projects in Alaska for mining and oil and gas drilling. But Biden has in fact outpaced former President Donald Trump in issuing oil and gas drilling permits on public lands.

“If there was ever a time for realism to prevail on resource development, it’s now,” Murkowski said. “Every day, I remind the Biden administration of the immense benefits of Alaska production, energy and minerals alike, and every day I remind them that refusing to permit those activities can have harmful consequences.”

Murkowski also said she supports ending seafood exports from Russia until the country lifts its ban on seafood imports from the U.S., in place since 2014.

“It is just reciprocity,” she said, adding that she and Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan would seek to advance legislation to impose an embargo on Russian imports as part of any Russia sanctions package that may move forward.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy echoed Murkowski’s concern over oil imports from Russia in a Twitter post on Tuesday, saying that the U.S. is “financing Russian aggression” by importing crude oil from Russia. The U.S. imported more than 17.8 million barrels of crude oil from Russia in November 2021, the last month for which there is data.

Tuesday’s speech was Murkowski’s first address to the Legislature since she was censured by the Alaska Republican Party over her support for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. The Alaska Republican Party has also endorsed her Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka in the race for the U.S. Senate seat.

[Murkowski says she’s worried US Supreme Court will be too restrictive on abortion]

Many legislators greeted Murkowski warmly on Tuesday. But some refrained from clapping and Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake, voiced a criticism shared by some Republicans over Murkowski’s support for Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Murkowski was one of four Republican senators who voted to confirm Haaland, along with fellow Alaska Sen. Sullivan, Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Some see Haaland as behind key decisions limiting oil and gas drilling in Alaska.

“My folks want to know — would you change your stance now if you could?” McCabe asked Murkowski after she concluded her speech.

“We have a secretary that is putting in place policies and proposals that are not good for our state. I would suggest to you, though, that Deb Haaland is perhaps not the mastermind behind much of this,” Murkowski replied. “How we deal with an administration that doesn’t appreciate the value of producing your own resources is an every single day challenge.”

Asked after her speech about her allegiance to the Republican Party, Murkowski said, “I don’t pledge allegiance to a party. I pledge allegiance to a country.”

Reporter James Brooks contributed to this story from Juneau.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Murkowski was the only Republican to vote in favor of the confirmation of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. The article has been corrected to reflect that Sen. Murkowski was one of four Republican senators who voted to confirm Haaland. The story has also been corrected to reflect that the U.S. imported more than 17.8 million barrels of crude oil from Russia in November 2021, not 17,000.


Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The Associated Press and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at isamuels@adn.com.

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