September 27, 2001
12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski Wednesday said he was highly disappointed in the comments of a Canadian minister in opposition to Arctic oil development, especially in light of Sept. 11’s terrorist attacks and Canada’s own accelerated energy exploration program in the Arctic. Murkowski, in a letter Wednesday to Canada’s U.S. Ambassador to Washington Michael Kergin, said he was troubled by the comments of Canada’s Minister of Environment David Anderson. On September 25, Anderson was quoted by a wire service (Reuters) as saying he hopes the United States will not make a “hasty and ill-considered” decision to allow oil exploration on Alaska’s Arctic coastal plain in light of the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. “I am highly disappointed by these comments. No energy policy decision in recent memory has been more thoroughly subjected to ‘long-term strategic considerations’ than has the issue of energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). For Mr. Anderson to suggest that for the U.S. to consider energy supply concerns is a ‘questionable approach,’ suggests a lack of concern for the security and stability of Canada’s neighbor and brother to the South,” wrote Murkowski. “(Canadian) leasing was undertaken with no more ‘hasty and ill-considered’ a decision-making process than that applied to current proposals to develop ANWR. In view of the fact that ANWR development proposals would provide” significant environmental safeguards, “I must register my strong protest to your government’s position as articulated by Mr. Anderson,” Murkowski wrote. Murkowski, during a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, noted that Canada has previously explored for oil in the calving area of the Porcupine herd. He also noted that Canada, besides building the Dempster Highway directly across the herd’s migration route, is permitting oil leasing in the herd’s migration area. He said several companies in Canada have done nearly 600 square miles of seismic testing during the past three years and are planning exploratory wells in the area. During his floor speech, Murkowski also stated that the Minister’s comments ignore the fact that America is proposing to fully protect the Porcupine herd’s calving area by restricting any surface disruption on the coastal plain to just 2,000 acres out of the 19-million-acres of ANWR. The proposal also includes seasonal drilling restrictions to prevent disturbance during the short calving season. “I have no objection to Canada’s oil exploration efforts to the east of Alaska. Nor do I feel I have a license to object. Indeed, I have great respect for the manner in which such efforts have been conducted. However, the continuing and off-handed objections of your government to a similar program on the American side of the border, in view of the events of Sept. 11, strike me as unbalanced, unfair and motivated by interests other than respect,” Murkowski wrote in his letter to Ambassador Kergin. The Senator is pressing Congress to consider national energy security legislation prior to its annual recess this fall. ###