Alaska, N.M govs join BLM boss in urging more energy production

Las Vegas Sun


RENO, Nev. (AP) - Two Western governors joined a top federal land manager Monday in urging more emphasis on new energy production to accompany calls for conservation.

Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat from New Mexico who served as U.S. energy secretary under President Clinton, and Gov. Frank Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, told 200 oil and gas producers that additional access to fossil fuels on federal lands is critical to the strength of the U.S. economy.

"We can't conserve our way out of our energy challenges," Richardson told the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

"Nor can we also drill our way out of it. We have to have a little bit of a combination of increased access to public lands, additional capacity, replacement of aging infrastructure and new technology," he said.

"It is critical we increase energy production, which I believe is the backbone of our economy," Richardson said, expressing optimism that Congress and the Bush administration would reach agreement on the energy bill before Congress.

"You may recall under the Clinton administration, increasing energy production was not an easy thing to do," he said, noting he likely was one of the few Democrats attending the annual meeting at the Silver Legacy hotel-casino.

Richardson, the incoming chairman of the compact commission, said a booming natural gas industry has helped New Mexico avoid budget shortages facing other states.

"My budget surplus is because of you," he told the group. "Our ability to spend money on education is because of oil and gas."

Murkowski, former chairman of the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee, said the pending energy bill must include new drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

"This bill better have some significant new energy sources that are identifiable," Murkowski said.

"I think that is the expectation of the public. The president has put his blessing on some major sources of energy, primarily gas and ANWR," he said.

"We do have substantial supply potential in this country, but it doesn't do any good to talk about supply if you don't have access. Access is where the relief is really needed."

Kathleen Clarke, director of the Bureau of Land Management which controls 264 million acres of federal land across the West, has been criticized by environmentalists.

Clarke is moving to open additional federal lands - especially in the Rocky Mountain region - to new exploration for oil and natural gas.

"There are those who would have us end all energy production on public lands," Clarke told about 20 members of the group at a panel discussion. She said public lands account for about 30 percent of all energy.

"Could you imagine cutting our production by one-third?" she said. "Right now, one-third of our energy comes from the Middle East. To me, that is rather terrifying.

"Energy production on public lands is a critical piece of our way of life and quite frankly, our standard of living."


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