Legislature(2003 - 2004)
02/21/2003 01:03 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SJR 4-ENDORSING ANWR LEASING [Contains discussion pertaining to HJR 6, the companion resolution] VICE CHAIR MASEK announced that the first order of business would be SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 4, Urging the United States Congress to pass legislation to open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, to oil and gas exploration, development, and production. Number 0134 SENATOR THOMAS WAGONER, Alaska State Legislature, testified as the sponsor of SJR 4. Senator Wagoner informed the committee that the intent of SJR 4 is to urge the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas exploration, development, and production. He pointed out that this resolution has been before the legislature at least five times. "This year it looks like everything is in line and we have a good chance of passing this item both here and in the United States Congress," he said. He highlighted that this year a majority of the members of all of the houses of government involved support the opening of the coastal plain of ANWR to exploration production. He reminded members of Governor Murkowski's State of the State address during which he reaffirmed his belief that [the state] should do all that it can to open up the coastal plain of ANWR. North Slope production has been in decline since 1988, and therefore the development of the coastal plain of ANWR will help provide stability to national energy demands while increasing Alaska's revenue stream. SENATOR WAGONER explained that SJR 4 intends for the new technology used at the Alpine and Northstar [Units] to be used on the coastal plain of ANWR in order to enhance environmental protection. The current area [of the coastal plain of ANWR] under consideration represents approximately one-half of one percent of the coastal plain, out of the 19-million-acre refuge. Of the 19-million-acre refuge, 8 million acres has already been designated as wilderness. Senator Wagoner concluded by urging the committee's support of SJR 4. Number 0348 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked if there is any difference between HJR 6 [which had been heard in both the House Resources Standing Committee and House Special Committee on Oil and Gas] and SJR 4. SENATOR WAGONER answered that the two resolutions are exactly the same. REPRESENTATIVE GATTO inquired as to what objections people might have with regard to this resolution. SENATOR WAGONER replied that the main objections would be environmental objections. There have also been [objections] stating that there isn't enough oil [in ANWR] to make a difference. However, Senator Wagoner "begged to differ" because every bit of oil that can be produced makes a difference. He noted that often there are objections directed at the amount of acreage involved in the development. Number 0456 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO noted that he supports [SJR 4]. He turned to the objections stating that ANWR is a drop in the bucket and pointed out that [the coastal plain of ANWR] is good for 20 years of continuous production. Therefore, some of the objections are easy to address, although there are still some in the U.S. Senate who object to opening the coastal plain of ANWR. He asked if these objections are held because of objections from constituents, or whether there are reasonable objections. SENATOR WAGONER referred to the objections to opening the coastal plain of ANWR as the "East Coast mentality." He said that a million barrels of [oil] a day or whatever is produced isn't a drop in the bucket. One of the best ways to address the "drop in the bucket" objection is to ask what would happen to the West Coast if Alaska closed its pipeline. The total production from ANWR is unknown until exploration occurs and the size of the field is determined. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF recalled Senator Wagoner's mention that the coastal plain of ANWR could produce 1 million barrels a day. He pointed out that the U.S. is purchasing 1 million barrels a day from a man in a country with which the U.S. is prepared to go to war now. "I wonder who's laughing at us," he remarked. Therefore, he questioned who could argue [against] the development of ANWR. SENATOR WAGONER acknowledged that there is a lot of opposition to the opening of the coastal plain in ANWR, even in Alaska. Senator Wagoner pointed out that Alaska is in a fiscal crisis and if not ANWR, what will the state find to balance the budget, he asked. Although development in ANWR will take a longer time coming on line, he reiterated that the state will need the revenue from the oil coming from ANWR in the near future. "This is the best time to get that," he said. With regard to the oil imported from the Middle East, if ANWR can produce 1 million barrels a day, it will go a long way to help the balance of payments, he suggested. Anything that is produced is good for Alaska's economy as well as the United States' economy as a whole. Number 0843 VICE CHAIR MASEK determined that there was no one else who wished to testify. She then expressed her hope that some day a resolution will be [approved] by Congress so that there will be the opportunity to open ANWR for development. Vice Chair Masek closed public testimony and asked if there was any committee discussion. VICE CHAIR MASEK, in response to Representative Gatto, explained that a resolution is sent to the President, members of Congress, and others in order to inform those parties that the Alaska State Legislature supports the opening of ANWR. She related her belief in the importance of sending this resolution every time it's possible because it illustrates the [legislature's near] unity on this issue. Number 0976 CO-CHAIR CHENAULT moved to report SJR 4 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal note(s). He asked for unanimous consent. There being no objection, SJR 4 was reported from the House Resources Standing Committee.