FAIRBANKS — Alaska’s congressional delegation, as well as Gov. Bill Walker, are praising legislation folded into the U.S. Senate’s recently passed tax reform bill to open the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration and development. 

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said passage of the Senate GOP’s tax overhaul and the subsequent vote to open the 1002 area for oil development was a milestone in securing the state’s energy future.

“Opening the 1002 Area and tax reform both stand on their own, but combining them into the same bill, and then successfully passing that bill, makes this a great day to be an Alaskan,” Murkowski said in a statement released Friday. “I thank all of the Senators who spent time learning about our opportunities and needs, and who joined us tonight in voting for Alaska. We are grateful for their support and eager to take the next steps for this pro-jobs, pro-growth and pro-energy legislation.”

Murkowski chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and wrote Title II of the Senate tax bill, which included the legislative language to open the 1002 area for oil and gas development, with two lease sales required over the next ten years. 

Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan echoed Murkowski’s praise of the bill, noting that the Senate passage of the bill brings the state “that much closer to realizing a decades-long dream of opening the 1002 area of ANWR.”

“Allowing development in the coastal plain, an area specifically set aside for exploration and development, is a win for Alaska and a win for the nation,” Sullivan said. “It will create thousands of good paying jobs, restore faith in our economy and drive investments in our communities. It will also help protect the global environment by producing energy at home using the most stringent of environmental standards, and will help strengthen our national security and foreign policy.”

Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young, who has been working to open oil development in this area of the state since taking office in 1973, applauded the Senate for “unlocking more of Alaska’s energy potential.” This praise comes only months after Young heavily criticized a lack of action in the Senate during a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Fairbanks.

“Alaska is home to a vast amount of natural resources, and through the development of ANWR, we will strengthen our economy by creating new jobs and generating new revenue,” Young said. “As we move forward, particularly through the Conference Committee process, I will work with my House colleagues to ensure Alaska’s interests are protected and our energy sector continues to be a global leader. This is crucial for the economic growth of our state and nation, but also for countless families, communities and small businesses.”

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker also praised the step toward opening the 1002 area in a statement released Monday. 

“The U.S. Senate’s decision to include two lease sales in the 1002 in its tax reform legislation is welcome news to Alaskans,” Walker said. “We are now one step closer to being able to responsibly access our resources. I thank Senators Murkowski and Sullivan, as well as Congressman Young, for their leadership on this issue, and I strongly support this provision remaining in the legislation that emerges from the conference committee.”

The House passed its own version of the bill in November. It is now up to the House and the Senate to iron out the differences between their versions of the bill before President Trump can sign the legislation.

Contact staff writer Erin Granger at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.