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How Sen. Lisa Murkowski plans to open ANWR, get Alaskans back to work

Alaska senator speaks about whether she’ll run for reelection
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions...
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 18, 2021.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)
Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 9:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is up for reelection in 2022, has long held an independent streak. She was one of the first in her party to recognize President Joe Biden’s victory. She also supported Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior and has been critical of former President Donald Trump, for which she was recently censured by the Alaska Republican Party.

On the national stage she is known to be loved and hated by liberals depending on the vote or topic.

In Alaska’s she’s often simply referred to as just “Lisa.”

This week she’s been traveling across the state meeting with people from Fairbanks and Anchorage to Dillingham. Alaskans can follow along with her travels on Instagram where she has more 16,000 followers, which is far more than the two other members of the Alaska delegation.

She spoke with Alaska’s News Source on Thursday about a variety of topics, including the riots on Jan. 6 in the U.S Capitol, the worker shortage and whether she will run for reelection.

Here is a condensed version of that conversation.

Alaska’s News Source: What do you think Alaskans’ biggest needs are right now, especially when we have a worker shortage and that additional $300 a month in unemployment benefits from the state is going to stop that soon. How do we encourage people to get back to work when there are concerns about health, and there’s concern about childcare?

Sen. Lisa Murkowski: “So to your point about where do we get the workers, we want people to feel safe coming back to work. I am a strong proponent of getting as many Alaskans, as many Americans, as many people in this world, vaccinated as we can. We have done an extraordinary job of providing for good, safe vaccines, and done it in a quick way, but we need to get our numbers up. We need to get people safely back to work. There is a shortage, there is a shortage nationwide of folks going back in, and there’s a host of different reasons. I think you can look to, some might not feel safe. Some are dealing with the childcare issues, which have been very real. How we can address that issue is another thing that we’re working at. But, you mentioned the, the unemployment insurance. We have, for good reason — last year we increased the supplemental unemployment insurance for those folks who were working on Tuesday, (and on) Wednesday they’re told ‘sorry, we’ve got to close up,’ not because of bad management but because we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, and that individual doesn’t know how they’re going to pay their rent, or take care of kids. So that UI was important, but that supplemental, I think, has, has been that cushion and that safety net. But for some, it has allowed them to, to be able to live without working. In a way that I think it’s important, we look to that supplemental and, and whether or not it is a disincentive to work, because we can’t have that.”

Alaska’s News Source: “You are part of a group that wanted a bipartisan look at the insurrection this past January in the U.S Capitol, but it’s not happening. What do you think we lose out on by this not happening?”

Murkowski: “Well, I think it’s important to keep in mind that even though there will not be an independent commission as I had hoped we would see, I think that there are people in Alaska, and around the country, who wanted to know more. They had questions that needed to be answered, and they wanted it (to) be an independent, unbiased source and that’s what this commission, I believe, would have offered. Instead what we will see, we’re going to have the outcome from at least two different legislative committees in the Senate, and again, doing their own specific review. We’ll see that coming out. And it looks at this point in time, that Speaker Pelosi is going to move forward with appointment of an additional investigative committee. My fear is, is that it will be a partisan view and I don’t think that that is helpful to the American public, and how we get the answers that we have long sought.”

Alaska’s News Source: Last week the Biden administration OK’d the willow project for ConocoPhillips and at the same time denies ANWR. In your discussions with the administration, why is one project OK and another off limits?

Murkowski: “I think it’s important to put into context the really extraordinary effort by the Alaska delegation to reinforce at every turn with every administration official from the President on down the significance and the priority of Willow moving forward. This is a project that has been underway since the Clinton administration. It began with leases with Clinton, went through (former President) Bush, went through (former President) Obama, went through President Trump and now to the Biden administration. This is a project that has had extraordinary environmental review and process. ... It’s underway. There’s, there’s 2,000 direct jobs we’re talking about now. That’s not the folks that are supplying materials and goods up North to support this project. These are real jobs on the ground now. So pulling the plug, or allowing for an interminable delay on the Willow project would have brought about a real significant economic blow now, to Alaska, economy.”

ANWR, I think the administration had made very clear — President Biden when he was candidate Biden — made clear that he did not support opening ANWR. Although while he was president he had perhaps taken a more nuanced view of it, but it was probably no surprise to most Alaskans, that he would, he would take this step to require further environmental review. Because of that campaign promise.”

I’m looking at it though and saying, ‘good luck with that, we wrote (it) into law.’ Very specifically, in the 2017 legislation, the requirements that needed to be met, whether it was requirements coming from the Trump administration, or a Biden administration, that there’d be two lease sales. That they be of a certain size, and managed by the BLM. Those are requirements in law, and until we change the law, that is the law. And regardless of your administration, you’re required to follow the law. So we’re going to keep pushing on this. We’re not letting our foot off the gas, so to speak. We’re going to keep moving forward on ANWR too.”

Alaska’s News Source: There are a lot of concerns in particular in the Southeast that a cruise ship season wouldn’t happen. You and the rest of the delegation worked on that issue. What is it that you said, and did, to make that happen?

Murkowski: “I think it is perhaps not what we said, but how many times we said it. We said we have got to have relief, temporary relief from a U.S. law that was designed to protect U.S. interests, but in fairness is only protecting Canadian interests by denying us the opportunity in Alaska to have even a small segment of our tourist sector come back alive after a long year and a half of dealing with COVID restrictions, but being denied by a foreign country. And that’s effectively what was happening with the limitations of the PVSA, the Passenger Vessel Services Act. So we were dogged, we were adamant. We were persistent. We didn’t give up. And we were told when I filed this bill, I was told, ‘well it’s just a messaging bill. You’re just trying to send a message.’ And I said ‘no I don’t want to send a message. I need to have this addressed, I need to have this fix. We need a temporary fix, we need to need to get some reprieve.’ Because our tourist sector has been sucked, like nobody else out there, like nobody else out there. We have to have some hope. And so we didn’t give up. And I think that was what made the difference. We didn’t give up we stuck with it. And, and we made it happen.”

Alaska’s News Source: When we look to the future to 2022, are you running?

Murkowski: “Well I’m not going to announced here on Channel 2, whether I am or whether or not. What I’m doing, every day, is doing my job, doing my job representing Alaskans to absolutely the best of my ability. Being back in the state and visiting with folks, talking about how things are working, what more we need to be do doing what more the federal government can be doing or where we should be getting ourselves out of the way. I am not only meeting with people and doing what ... an incumbent does ... when the election cycle is in process and out raising the resources as well. But I think, I don’t know about you, Rebecca, but I get really tired of the fact that the campaigns just seem to be endless. That the day that the elections are over, boom we start into the next one, and it’s never ending. So, I’m not a real proponent of starting a campaign two full years early. I think people are going to get tired of that. So ... I’m doing, again, what Alaskans have asked me to do every day, and just continuing to work hard for them to earn that honor to remain in the Senate.”

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