Lisa Murkowski is back in the Senate, and once again she is backing opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil production.

Murkowski, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wasted no time during the committee’s first week, pushing for speed on opening up ANWR.

Murkowski spoke in tones of jobs and international competition to justify drilling in ANWR. “The United States is an Arctic nation because of Alaska. We cannot ignore the fact that Russia will drill in the Chukchi Sea in coming years and that Canada is already exploring the Beaufort Sea. Alaska cannot be forced to sit in the middle of this activity — bearing all the same risk but none of the reward — while our pipeline runs dry and our jobs disappear.”

The Alaskan’s comments didn’t simply come out of left field. They were in response to Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill Commission’s report. Among the many recommendations coming out of the commission’s report was the recommendation for much more study and research to be done on the subject of drilling in the Arctic. Murkowski says she is on board, but doesn’t want study to be code for delay.

“While I support increased funding for research, I do not accept it as an excuse to cancel existing leases in the Arctic or to put off future lease sales indefinitely,” she said in a statement. 
 

This should make for interesting politics on the always fun to watch Energy and Natural Resources Committee. 2011 is not expected to be a year when ANWR gets any political traction, but Murkowski seems committed to keeping the issue in focus. She may have a partner across the aisle as well. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu is a leading Democratic voice in ending the Obama administration's ban on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps the committee mates will soon join together in expanding drilling in both the most southern and northern parts of the nation.

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