Murkowski and Sullivan rail at federal moves to block Ambler Road and preserve parts of NPR-A

a photo of a man and a woman speaking into microphones
U.S. Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski. (Alaska Public Media)

The Biden administration is making two big decisions this week that block resource extraction in Alaska and the state’s U.S. senators are fuming.

They, along with a flock of other Republican senators, said President Biden is boosting the mineral-rich countries like Russia and Venezuela while driving down American industry. 

“He is destabilizing our security as a nation in a way that most didn’t think possible in such a short time period,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski told reporters at a press conference Thursday.

The decisions are expected to be announced Friday, but the New York Times and Bloomberg have already spilled the beans: The administration intends not to allow a road in Northwest Alaska that’s crucial to the development of mining in the Ambler area. And it will adopt a rule that will add environmental protections to sensitive areas of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, to the west of Prudhoe Bay.

Both Ambler and the NPR-A have massive tracts of undeveloped land that are important to migrating birds, wildlife and subsistence harvests. Environmental groups and indigenous opponents of drilling and mining are preparing their responses to celebrate the expected news. But the GOP senators aren’t waiting for the official announcements.

Murkowski said that by shutting down oil and mineral extraction in the U.S., it’s as though the administration wants to drive business overseas and help the country’s adversaries.

“We’d rather take it from Iran, from Russia, and all the other places where they really don’t care about us. And they love the fact that we’re being crippled by our own administration,” she said.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, who organized the Senate press conference, said he wants to get the word out, because he thinks the American voters won’t tolerate the assaults on Alaska mining and drilling.

“The most important thing we can do is retake the Senate, retake the White House,” he said. “That’s going to be the ultimate revenge here.”

Congress could pass a resolution to overturn the environmental rule in the National Petroleum Reserve, Sullivan said. President Biden would certainly veto that resolution, but Sullivan said if the rule is delayed a bit, the decision could be left to a Republican president.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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