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Murkowski rolls out energy-policy reforms

Plan omits climate-change provisos

The Senate energy committee's top Republican rolled out a plan Monday for broad policy reforms that call for increased domestic oil drilling and loosening federal regulations, an effort designed to make the country largely energy self-sufficient by the end of the decade.

But conspicuously absent from Sen. Lisa Murkowski's plan were any significant climate-change proposals — a move that threatens one of President Obama's signature agenda items of his second term.

The plan isn't in legislative form, but rather "designed to be a discussion blueprint" to completely wean the nation from Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil by 2020.

The Alaskan Republican touted the plan as a balanced approach, pointed to provisions that would lead to more funding opportunities for renewable — or so-called "clean" — energy sources like biofuels, wind and solar.

The plan would build on research initiatives for clean energy, such as federal loan programs and public-private partnership financing. She calls for extra money generated from her proposals to create an Advanced Energy Trust Fund for clean-energy research and to pay down the national debt.

"What I'm working toward is a proposal that gets us to a policy that is affordable, it's abundant, it's clean, it's diverse and it's secure," Ms. Murkowski said Monday on MSNBC. "If we can work toward all those things, we actually get to a better climate, a better environment, just a place where we're stronger as a nation, and where we're cleaner environmentally as a nation."

But the plan focuses heavily on tapping into the nation's expansive oil and gas reserves, including drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a controversial move strongly opposed by environmentalists. It also calls for strong partnerships with Canada and Mexico to ensure oil exports from those countries continue.

The plan calls for streamlining the federal review and permitting process that Republicans have complained has delayed or sidelined big energy projects, such as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast.

Ms. Murkowski's 121-page proposal has no new taxes and says subsidies and new spending must be fully offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. The plan also doesn't address the controversial "cap and trade" emissions-trading program — an effort critics say would lead to higher energy costs — because the senator said she won't support anything that leads to higher energy prices for Americans.

"That isn't what a strong nation does. What a strong nation does is figures out how we ... build out these technologies, these clean technologies, that will allow us to do more and do it in a clean way," Ms. Murkowski told reporters at the Capitol.

She added that policies aimed at lowering greenhouse-gas emissions that increase consumer costs, impose mandates and other "heavy-handed ideas" are a waste of time because they wouldn't pass Congress.

The Obama administration has proposed cutting federal tax-credit subsidies to oil and gas companies and to increase funding for clean-energy programs. But Ms. Murkowski said it would be unfair to subsidize one segment of the energy industry on the back of another.

"I don't think that makes sense, and I won't support it," she said.

She would, however, be willing to consider reforming subsidies to oil and gas companies "along with everything else out there."

Franz Matzner of the Natural Resources Defense Council called the plan "a cut-and-paste job from the fossil-fuel industry's playbook of the past."

"We need a plan that moves us forward to the 21st century, not one that keeps us wedded to the past," said Mr. Matzner, associate director of government affairs for the environmental group.

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