The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources heard testimony about proposals for drilling operations in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Authorities debated over tapping into hydrocarbon resources on less than 3 percent of the 20 million-acre ANWR. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are at least 5.7 billion barrels of technically recoverable crude oil and natural gas liquids within the so-called 1002 Area of ANWR.
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said in his opening remarks tapping into ANWR represents "the single greatest opportunity" for increasing domestic energy resources in the United States.
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said tapping into ANWR would provide an economic boost to "virtually every state."
David Jenkins, vice president for the advocacy group Republics for Environmental Protection, questioned why, with most of the North Slope open to development, sensitive land should be exploited.
Lawmakers scheduled another round of testimony Friday.
The hearing follows a proposed five-year lease program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf. The proposal by the Interior Department calls for 12 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and three off the Alaskan coast.