President Trump predicted that Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska will “never recover” from it. Sarah Palin, the state's former governor, suggested on Twitter that Murkowski might lose reelection four years from now because of it. The Alaska Republican Party is even considering reprimanding her for it.
Murkowski, the only GOP senator to oppose the confirmation of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, is receiving a lot of blowback from leading Republicans over her vote. Despite her “no” on the procedural vote to advance Kavanaugh's nomination, the judge was confirmed by the Senate on Saturday in a 50-to-48 decision.
Should Murkowksi run for reelection in 2022, however, she has an ace up her sleeve back home in the form of a bill that she wrote — and that Trump himself signed into law.
Murkowski wrote a landmark piece of legislation opening 1.5 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, in northeastern Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling. With Trump's signature at the end of last year, anywhere between 4.3 and 11.8 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil will be eligible for extraction, according to a 1998 U.S. Geological Survey estimate.
Nearly every elected official the state has sent to Washington before Murkowski over the past three decades — including her own father, former senator and governor Frank Murkowski — had tried and failed to open that remote coastal plain in Alaska's North Slope to fossil-fuel extraction.
“This is an issue she can exploit,” said Gerald McBeath, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. “She has proven her legislative effectiveness.”
The other two members of Alaska's congressional delegation, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) and Rep. Don Young (R), both also enthusiastically support drilling for oil in the wildlife refuge.
But Murkowski had an outsized role in delivering that legislative victory to a state often irked by conservation-minded outsiders who want to keep Alaska's natural resources off-limits to development.
As chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, she wrote and ushered through her panel a provision to the GOP's tax bill calling for at least two major lease sales there. The measure requires the Interior Department to auction off mineral rights in areas encompassing at least 400,000 acres each over the next decade.
Making use of that oil and gas is not an abstract issue for average Alaskans. Unlike other oil-producing states, Alaska cuts a check each year to residents, redistributing revenue that the state collects from oil companies that pump on government-owned lands.
In an interview with The Post over the weekend, Trump acknowledged the historical nature of the tax bill to Alaska.
“Nobody could get it,” he said of opening the refuge to drilling. “Bush couldn’t get it. Clinton tried. I wouldn’t say Obama, it’s not his deal. I can’t imagine he tried. But nobody could get it through, including Ronald Reagan. They worked endlessly, and I got it done.”
(In fact, like most Democrats both then and now, Bill Clinton supported keeping developers out of the refuge. In 1995, he vetoed an appropriations bill allowing for drilling there.)
Already, a consortium of two Alaska Native corporations and a small oil-services company are planning to do seismic testing there this winter to map underground pockets of oil and gas. Even if Trump loses reelection in 2020, a new Democratic administration will still be bound by the law Murkowski helped write to hold the lease sales.
Murkowski has survived more intense political pressures than Trump's recent barbed comments. She maintains a political coalition of women and Alaskan natives that is closer to the center of the political spectrum than those other elected Republicans in the state. Eight years ago, she lost the Republican primary to a tea-party insurgent only to mount a successful write-in campaign in the general election.
Despite her nine-letter last name, she beat both the official Democratic and Republican nominees. Six years later in 2016, she coasted to reelection.
That 2010 victory, McBeath said, “indicates better than anything else her survivability.”
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— "Not today": One day after a panel of climate scientists convened by the United Nations issued a dire warning about the state of the planet, the White House had no official comment on a major report that says that the world has just over a decade to get global warming under control or face catastrophe. “Not today,” Bill Shine, the White House communications director, told The New York Times when reached for comment. “It’s a Kavanaugh night," he added, referring to the swearing-in of Kavanaugh on Monday at the White House. (The White House ceremony was just that — ceremonial — since Kavanaugh had already been given his oath over the weekend.)
— A call for more climate-change news coverage: If the Trump administration will not weigh in on the U.N. climate report, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan writes, the news media better do so. The slow-moving crisis spurred by climate change “will need sustained emphasis, by the media and the public, all over the world, if we stand a chance of maintaining a livable planet," Sullivan writes, adding "this subject must be kept front and center, with the pressure on and the stakes made abundantly clear at every turn."
— Corn wars: The Trump administration on Monday announced plans to promote the use of ethanol by allowing year-round rales of fuel that is 15 percent ethanol by volume, The Post’s Felicia Sonmez reports. The directive, which will ask the EPA to draft a rule allowing for the change, will be formally announced a rally for Republicans in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Tuesday.
— Zinke goes to Montana: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Monday approved a 20-year block on new mining claims on public lands near Yellowstone National Park. The former Montana congressman made the announcement at a ceremony in the state’s Paradise Valley, the Associated Press reports. “Monday’s action does not stop mining on private land or take away pre-existing mining claims on public lands” per the report.
— Storm watch: Hurricane Michael, which quickly strengthened to a Category 2 storm Tuesday morning, is edging closer to Florida’s northern Gulf Coast and poses the most serious hurricane threat to the region in more than a decade. It's likely to make landfall Wednesday as a Category 3 hurricane. "Michael is poised to push ashore a ‘life-threatening’ surge of ocean water that will inundate" Florida’s Panhandle, from Pensacola to Apalachicola, and its Big Bend this week, The Post’s Jason Samenow reports.
…if you live beyond the coast: “Damaging winds and flooding rain were also predicted to reach southern Georgia and southeast Alabama on Wednesday,” Samenow reports. “By Wednesday night and Thursday, heavy rains from Michael are likely to streak into the Carolinas and the Mid-Atlantic, perhaps bringing more flooding to some of the same areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.”
...and if you live in the D.C. area: The moisture from the storm is likely to make its way to the area by Thursday, Samenow writes, though exactly how much is not yet clear.
— Investors are betting on a changing climate: A growing number of investors are looking into opportunities to take advantage of the increasing signs of global warming. “Where they’re putting their money provides a glimpse into some of the likely tangible impacts from higher temperatures,” Bloomberg News reports. “The investments include storm and flood protection along the coast, desalination plants in drought-prone regions, new approaches to agriculture, and even land far from the ocean for when rising seas shift the real estate market.”
— ExxonMobil gives $1 million to promote a carbon tax: The U.S. oil giant is making that seven-figure donation to an educational and advocacy group supporting a carbon tax-and-dividend plan put forward by several leading GOP luminaries, including former treasury secretary James A. Baker III and former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, reports The Post's Steven Mufson. The tax would increase the price of fossil fuels, including for the oil giant itself, and return the revenue to Americans as a dividend check.
At the moment, such a carbon-tax scheme has little support among the Republicans controlling Congress, many of whom dismiss climate science. Mufson adds: "The size of the donation isn’t large by ExxonMobil standards. The company spends that much on its capital investment program every 20 minutes or so."
— The road ahead for Tesla: Finding someone to take on the role of chairman of the electric automaker will be a tall order, The Post’s Jena McGregor reports, citing analysts and governance observers. That candidate “needs an independent streak, an established profile with investors, intelligence and a background that can earn Musk’s respect” along with maybe most importantly "an ability to coach an unpredictable CEO" after the chairman title was stripped from Musk as part of a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
— "They don’t know what to do with it:" Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said delivering U.S.-produced oil and gas abroad will be one of the best checks on Russia's growing geopolitical influence. “We are the dominant energy power. We will be producing 15 million barrels of oil per day in a couple years. We’re passing [the] Saudis. We’re passing Russia," Kudlow said in an interview with Hill.TV late last week. "We have so much natural gas coming out of the Permian Basin, they don’t know what to do with it. They’re flaring it 'cause they can’t use it.” Kudlow said he wants more energy infrastructure, including pipelines, to market that fuel to market.
- The EPA holds a public meeting on its study of oil and gas extraction wastewater management,
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on state conservation, recovery and management of wildlife on Wednesday.
- The Energy Department and the Space Foundation host a panel discussion on “How Nuclear Energy Powers Deep Space Missions” on Wednesday.
- The Heritage Foundation holds an event on nuclear supplied partnerships within the OECD on Wednesday.
- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the “process for returning energy to the power grid after a system-wide blackout” on Thursday.
- Environmental and Energy Study Institute and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy hold a briefingon climate action efforts on Friday.
Securing America’s Future Energy holds a briefing on “The Importance of Fuel Economy Rules for America’s Energy Security” on Friday.
SpaceX’s launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California lit up the night sky on Sunday: