Alaska sentaor makes new push for crude exports, revenue sharing

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski speaks to reporters in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing room July 23, 2015. (Erica Martinson/ Alaska Dispatch News)
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski speaks to reporters in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing room July 23, 2015. (Erica Martinson/ Alaska Dispatch News)
WASHINGTON — Sen. Lisa Murkowski launched a new effort Thursday to secure state revenues from offshore oil drilling and lift the ban on U.S. exports of crude oil.

Murkowski, a Republican, chairs the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and said she plans to use her leadership position there to advance the bill. She left the provisions out of a broader, nationally focused energy bill introduced Wednesday.

Murkowski is combining several bills into one: her bill providing offshore revenue sharing for Alaska, similar bills for Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean states, and a bill authorizing crude oil exports in the United States.

“What we’re attempting to do here is lay down a revenue sharing bill that is more than just revenue sharing for Alaska,” Murkowski said.

“It’s one way to advance Alaska’s priorities in a way that will let us deal with these very important measures,” she said in an interview Thursday. She said that as committee chairwoman, “I can set which bills go on the calendar, and this is a bill that’s a priority of mine, and so we’re going to move that through the markup.” The full committee will consider the bill next week.

Percentages

The key aim of the legislation is to hand states a portion of the revenue the federal government gets from rentals and royalties in the Outer Continental Shelf. Alaska’s revenue sharing for offshore oil production would be divided into two phases: 2016 to 2026, and 2026 onward. Revenue sharing would be much more minor during the early, exploratory drilling phase and would ramp up after 2026.

For the first 10 years, 25 percent of revenues would go to state and local entities: 7.5 percent of revenues would go to the state and another 7.5 percent of revenues would go to local coastal areas. Additionally, 2.5 percent of revenues would be awarded to four entities: to a competitive grant fund for workforce development; to the Bureau of Land Management’s North Slope Science Initiative; to the interior secretary to establish pipeline rights-of-way on federal lands; and to a “Tribal Resilience Program.”

The bill creates that tribal program — a federal grant fund run through the Interior Department — building on a previous effort announced by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

“So we were looking for an avenue to be able to direct revenues to help … in our Arctic environments,” Murkowski said.

Grant funding

Tribes could get funding for a wide range of issues, including relocation for communities impacted by coastal and river erosion; infrastructure for emergency evacuations; restoration of infrastructure damaged by melting permafrost; installing new energy systems that cut greenhouse gas emissions; and social and cultural support for communities. The amount of the grant money available depends on drilling, and is capped at $200 million a year.

The nonfederal share of the drilling revenue sharing escalates after the oil presumably starts flowing in 2026. From then on, the bill would hand only half to the U.S. Treasury, 30 percent to the state, 7.5 percent to local “Coastal Political Subdivisions,” and 12.5 percent to the Tribal Resilience Program.

The bill would also specify new lease sales in the Nearshore Beaufort Sea Planning Area and the Cook Inlet Planning Area in fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Floating nuclear power stations for Arctic?, Radio Canada International

Finland: Less than a third of Finns support Fennovoima nuclear plant, Yle News

Norway: Three years on, still no deal on nuclear accident warning for Norway, Barents Observer

Russia: Finland downplays Russian bid to build reactor, Yle News

Sweden:  Sweden’s environment minister wants nuclear reactors closed, Radio Sweden

United States: Let locals decide fate of Arctic drilling says U.S. politician, Alaska Dispatch News

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