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Parnell: Interior, EPA driving foreign policy

By Becky Bohrer

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 25 2011 4:16 p.m. MST

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell pauses while speaking about the nation's oil and gas policies, Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, at the National Press Club in Washington.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska — The U.S. Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency are driving foreign policy with overreaching policies and regulations that encourage a greater reliance on foreign oil, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said Friday.

Parnell told the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that there must be a shift. He said his state must be given greater opportunities to develop its storehouse of resources to help improve the nation's energy and national security and the economy.

The message isn't new; Parnell has been hitting on these points since taking office in mid-2009, and they resonate — strongly — at home.

But he hoped to use a rare turn in the national spotlight to draw greater attention to federal decisions he believes are inhibiting Alaska's ability to develop resources it has a right to develop, better support itself and keep oil flowing through the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline.

The pipeline carries more than 10 percent of the nation's domestic oil production.

He planned to hit on similar themes during this weekend's National Governors Association meeting in Washington.

Parnell told the press club the U.S. economic recover depends on access to secure, affordable energy. He said the need for more domestic supplies is made plain by the unrest in the Middle East and north Africa, which is putting the U.S. oil supply line from that region at risk.

There's plenty to tap in Alaska, he said; companies just need access to it.

He blamed "misguided federal policy, much of it aided by misinformation and political agendas," for hindering offshore development. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suspended indefinitely applications for permits in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas after the oil rig explosion and massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

Parnell also said the U.S. State Department is being forced into a "reactive, mitigating role because of the increasingly hostile stance" that Interior and the EPA have taken against domestic energy production.

"These are agencies that can lock down domestic oil with no responsibility for consequences. They can force America to depend ever more heavily on foreign oil at more enormous cost of lives, tax dollars and economic opportunity," he said. "They do this by delaying leasing, delaying permitting and by attempting sweeping lock-ups of land without congressional approval or authority.

"The Department of Interior in the past few years has acted like a shopaholic with a stolen credit card and a taste for empire building," he said, noting efforts to designate millions of acres as wilderness and to set aside an area that he says is larger than the state of California for critical polar bear habitat.

Parnell said he's doing what he can to improve access to state lands. He also is proposing cutting oil production taxes, a move that could cost the state up to $2 billion a year in revenue but one that he believes, in the long-run, will lead to new jobs and boost investment.

He declined to say whether he believed the current tax regime — put in place by his predecessor, Sarah Palin — was a mistake. Instead, he said Alaska can become more competitive with other energy-producing states and that he is working to make that happen.

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