Former President Donald Trump announced Monday that he plans to travel to Alaska to campaign against Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s re-election.
One of the reasons Trump pointed to for this decision was Murkowski’s choice to confirm Biden administration appointees, who then shut down oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.
“Senator Lisa Murkowski has cost the great people of Alaska billions and billions of dollars by voting for Radical Left Biden appointees, which in turn led to the revocation of ANWR drilling, which Alaskans have been fighting to see happen for six decades,” the 45th president said in a statement.
“Not only did Murkowski kill the biggest economic stimulant for the State, but also one of the biggest energy producing sites in the world,” he continued.
“She’s the best friend Washington Democrats ever had — and Alaska’s reward for that betrayal is an empowered Left coming after their wealth and jobs,” Trump said.
“I think she will be met very harshly by the Alaska voters in 15 months, and I will be there to campaign against her!” he promised.
After decades of attempts to open ANWR to drilling, a remote coastal strip of land known as the 1002 Area was green-lit as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Don't buy the bull. Only a small sliver of ANWR (Area 1002), specifically set aside for potential drilling yrs ago, is impacted by #TaxReformBill. Most of ANWR will remain off-limits to #energy work. #copolitics #ANWR #TaxReformBill #gop #stoplying pic.twitter.com/ij099L7Vw2
— Sean Paige (@SeanPaige) December 3, 2017
Murkowski celebrated the provision’s passage, which she helped orchestrate getting included in the tax bill.
“This is a watershed moment for Alaska and all of America,” the senator said in a news release at the time.
“Alaskans can now look forward to our best opportunity to refill the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, thousands of jobs that will pay better wages, and potentially $60 billion in royalties for our state alone,” Murkowski added.
However, last week Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland issued an order halting all oil exploration activities, citing “alleged legal deficiencies” and an “insufficient analysis” of the environmental impact.
Both Murkowski and fellow Alaskan Sen. Dan Sullivan were among four Republicans who voted to confirm Haaland in March, though her opposition to drilling in ANWR was well documented.
Alaska Senators Murkowski and Sullivan, who were two of the four Republicans to vote to confirm Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary in March, opposed the Interior Dept's announcement today to suspend all oil and gas leases in ANWR. https://t.co/VUlUUYuCk9 https://t.co/B7xmwHUbMe
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) June 2, 2021
Alaska Public Media headlined in December 2020: “Biden’s pick for Interior secretary is a passionate foe of drilling in Arctic Refuge.”
“I’m here to support my family in Alaska. To protect the Arctic Refuge. To protect the animals and the trees and everything that lives there,” Haaland said as a congresswoman-elect at an anti-drilling rally in front of the U.S. Capitol in 2018.
“Because not everything should be based on how much money we can make,” she added.
Haaland, who is Native American, meant “family” in the broad sense that the rally was organized by a group of Alaska Natives, according to APR.
Later in 2018, Haaland co-sponsored a bill that would have blocked the Bureau of Land Management (which of course falls under the Department of the Interior) from holding a lease sale in ANWR as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act required.
Murkowski responded to Haaland’s order shutting down ANWR drilling saying, “The Biden administration’s actions are not unexpected but are outrageous nonetheless.”
“The oil and gas leasing program established by the Trump Administration meets the legal mandates required by Congress including imposing a framework with a range of environmental safeguards that are successfully guiding production elsewhere in northern Alaska,” she added.
“This action serves no purpose other than to obstruct Alaska’s economy and put our energy security at great risk. Alaskans are committed to developing our resources responsibly and have demonstrated our ability to do so safely to the world.”
Alaska’s Resource Development Council reported, “The oil industry accounts for one-quarter of Alaska jobs and about one-half of the overall economy when the spending of state revenues from oil production is considered. In other words, without oil, Alaska’s economy would be half its size.”
“In 2018, the industry accounted for more than 77,600 direct and indirect jobs and $4.8 billion in Alaska wages.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in April that oil production in the Last Frontier reached its lowest level in more than 40 years in 2020.
The downward trend has been continuing since the late ’80s and opening ANWR, which likely holds over 10 billion barrels of untapped oil reserves, offered an opportunity to reverse the trend.
Trump likely has other reasons for opposing Murkowski’s re-election.
The three-term senator was among seven Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney of Utah, who joined with Senate Democrats earlier this year to vote to convict Trump of inciting the incursion into the Capitol on Jan. 6.