President Obama and his regulators have made the people of the state of Alaska their personal punching bags over the past year with the announcement that an area that is the equivalent of 80 percent of the entire state of West Virginia will be locked away from energy development in the state.
The designation of 12 million acres including the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve as a Wilderness Area has to be agreed to by Congress, but the law puts the land in limbo until Congress either agrees or rescinds the designation.
When coupled with the blocking of off-shore oil development in the Arctic Sea and an attempt to roll back allowed oil development in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.
These actions come on the heels of Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency acting last year to prevent a copper mine from being developed in the southwestern portion of the state on land specifically designated for mining. The EPA action was particularly egregious because it usurped the normal and strenuous federal mine permitting process denying the company developing the area from being able to submit a plan after spending almost half a billion dollars in environmental analysis and engineering.
The reaction from the Alaska Congressional delegation was swift and loud as the President’s actions have the potential of eviscerating the resource development dependent state’s capacity to exist and thrive in the future. The goal of environmentalists is to cut off the supply of oil that flows through the Alaska pipeline and force its closure and dismantling. While the pipeline has proven to have easily coexisted with the various animal species that congregate under it during the bitter cold of an Arctic winter, environmentalists fought it with as much fervor as they are currently devoting to killing the Keystone XL with many of the same arguments.
The development of the Alaska pipeline opened up year round oil development out of the state’s Prudhoe Bay as the black liquid flowed north to south more than 800 miles. Now, due to declining production and the blocking of the development of new oil fields, the pipeline is being choked and with it Alaska’s economy.
It is estimated that almost one-third of all the jobs in the state are petroleum related. If the pipeline dies, those jobs go away, more than 100,000 men and women thrown out of work due to Obama’s efforts.
Ironically, Alaska’s Senior Senator Lisa Murkowski was seen as one of the Republican Senators who President Obama might be able to reach out to in order to build compromise toward his policies. Now, with an existential threat to her state’s economic survival, Murkowski faces the political battle of her life, and has promised to use every tool at her disposal to win it.
If Murkowski, a potential swing vote in the Senate is serious, Obama could face paybacks on his nominees and his entire “all in one” energy strategy could come under withering scrutiny from the Senate Energy Committee that the Alaska Senator chairs. Not to mention finding a closed door as he attempts to push the now Republican U.S. Senate to the left.
The stakes are high. The battle lines are set. And the future of energy and mineral development are on the table. Hardly the kind of conciliatory hand shake Republicans expected from Obama after they chose to work with him on the Cromnibus federal government funding bill in the lame duck session of Congress.