WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she was looking forward to working with the next administration on energy policies as new drilling frontiers open elsewhere.
Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she was dismayed by President Barak Obama's decision to open up new Atlantic acreage to drillers the same week he proposed closing off parts of an Alaska wilderness area to energy companies indefinitely.
A draft lease program offered by the U.S. Interior Department includes 10 potential leases in the Gulf of Mexico and one in parts of the Atlantic. The plan calls for three potential sales off the coast of Alaska, though the Obama administration designated parts of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas as off limits for future oil and gas leasing.
"We know the arctic is an incredibly unique environment, so we're continuing to take a balanced and careful approach to development," U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. "At the same time, the president is taking thoughtful action to protect areas that are critical to the needs of Alaska Natives and wildlife."
The president in December used his authority to place the Bristol Bay off limits and this week proposed setting aside most of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a protected wilderness area.
The ANWR decision drew fire from Alaskan lawmakers, who viewed the decision as a threat to the state economy. For Murkowski, a long-time critic of Obama's energy policies, it was an act of war.
"Forgive me for remaining skeptical about this administration's commitment to our energy security," she said. "I look forward to working with the next administration to ensure that Americans have access to abundant and affordable energy."
Earlier reactions from Murkowski on the ANWR proposal were criticized by the White House.
"We don't think that the reaction that particularly Sen. Murkowski had to this announcement was warranted," Obama adviser John Podesta told reporters.
The five-year lease proposal drew mixed reviews from the U.S. energy sector and those in the environmental community.
Eric Milito, director of upstream programs at the American Petroleum Institute, said the proposal is short-sighted. What's on the table for the Atlantic is "a good step," but it's the "bare minimum" of what's needed for further offshore development.
Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. programs at conservation group Oceana, said the lease plan would hurt already established fishing and tourism industries up and down the Atlantic coast.
"Oceana's own analysis finds that offshore wind in the Atlantic would produce twice as much energy and twice as many jobs as offshore drilling, without the risk of a catastrophic spill," she said in a statement.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., joined other New Jersey lawmakers in expressing concerns about oil and gas drilling off the state coast. New Jersey, he said, gets about $38 billion from coastal tourism each year.
"The economic consequences of an oil spill near the New Jersey coastline would be catastrophic," he said.
Former Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said parts of the state refuge area may contain "billions of barrels of recoverable oil." The National Ocean Industries Association estimates about 1.34 million barrels of oil equivalent per day could be produced from the Atlantic basin by 2035 and most of that would be in the form of natural gas.