Republican News

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Frank H. Murkowski, Ranking Member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee released the following statement today during the hearing on the President Bush’s proposed budget for the Departments of Interior and Energy. “I applaud the priorities of the President’s Budget , War Against Terrorism, Homeland Defense, Economic Recovery, because they are all extremely important. A time of war is no time to skimp on defense spending. I am pleased to note that both the Interior and Energy budget requests recognize the role a sound energy policy plays in contributing to National Security. This budget request reflects the new reality and the new threats we face. “We saw an economic threat to our well-being just last year in the form of constrained energy supplies and higher energy prices. As a result, the U.S. economy is in recession, and thousands of hard-working Americans lost their jobs in the past year. DOE’s programs create the new energy technologies – fossil, nuclear, renewable, efficiency – that get Americans back to work and get our economy going again. “I am disappointed with several aspects of this budget though, especially regarding funding cuts for programs in Alaska. Out of a $21.9 billion budget, only $2.4 million will go to Alaska, about 1 one hundredth of one percent. Last Congress we authorized the creation of a Department of Energy office in Alaska to seek a partnership in Alaska to develop energy resources. Yet the Department has failed to fund this office. The State of Alaska contributes considerably to the energy security of this Nation – DOE needs to recognize this in its budget priorities. In the FY03 DOE budget, Alaska will get less money than all but two states. “But according to EIA statistics, Alaska is the 6th largest energy producing state in the nation (behind Texas, Wyoming, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky). It also produces more energy per capita than all states except Wyoming. Why does the Department of Energy budget turn its back to a state that actually produces energy? “The Interior budget highlights responsible development of energy resources on Federal lands, thus contributing to reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy. I am pleased to see the increase of $3 million to be used to accelerate leasing, exploration and development on the North Slope. This increase can be used to speed up exploration and development in both the NPR-A and, hopefully, in ANWR. Development in both of these areas is crucial because they are America’s best prospect for increasing our oil and gas capacity. “Regarding the Forest Service budget request, I commend the Administration for making a clear effort to control costs and coming to us with what is essentially a flat budget for the Forest Service. There are, however, a few items that cause me some concern with respect to Alaska. The most startling of these is the proposal to allow parties to purchase timber sales with no requirement that the sales be harvested. “Proceeding in this manner could compromise the very purpose of the federal timber sale program. Sales that are critically important to many of my constituents in South East Alaska could be purchased by people who’s major goal in life is to destroy the South East Alaska timber industry. “Over the last 6 to 8 years, the Forest Service’s failure to offer a sufficient volume of economic timber sales to purchasers in the Tongass has resulted in a virtual closing of the timber industry in South East Alaska – and the loss of more that 3,000 private sector jobs. “Even with Congressional support, the Forest Service only offered 68 million board feet (mmbf) out of a target of 190 mmbf last year. “In the context of the current budget, I hope the present Administration is taking steps to correct this deficiency and get the timber sale program back on its feet before it is too late for the remaining sawmills and logging companies in Alaska.” ###