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Vote Now: Where Should Roll Call Travel for the Midterm Elections?

Murkowski Walks Delicate Line as Ranking Member

Indeed, as the top Republican on the Energy panel, she is pressing to expand oil and gas drilling in the energy bill that the committee is working on. But at the same time, she’s also promoting renewables, nuclear power, efficiency measures and any clean-energy technologies that will reduce emissions from fossil fuels.

Murkowski has also pushed back against President Barack Obama’s efforts to reverse the energy policies of the Bush administration, which largely favored oil and gas production. With Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), she successfully led a filibuster against Obama’s nominee for deputy Interior secretary, David Hayes, who won confirmation only after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar agreed to address their concerns over canceled lease sales.

Alaska environmentalists have clashed repeatedly with Murkowski over her support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but they acknowledge she has shown a willingness to listen to their concerns over climate change that was lacking in her predecessor — her father, former Sen. (and ex-Gov.) Frank Murkowski (R).

“She has at least indicated an interest,” said Jim Adams, the director of the Alaska office for the National Wildlife Federation. But he said environmentalists will be looking to see whether Murkowski supports energy and climate legislation on the Senate floor later this year.

Murkowski concedes she still has questions about whether the timing is right for a carbon cap but notes the obvious benefits of engagement.

“There comes a point in time when you see an issue moving ahead and you can either pretend they’re not going to make any headway or you can join in and try to shape it in a way that is not going to hurt the people you represent,” she said. “[There] is not an easy way forward, but I think it’s the responsible approach.”

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