(JUNEAU) - The Alaska House of Representatives passed House Bill 101 by a vote of 34 to three today. HB 101 appropriates a total of $1.3 million to promote oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. House Finance co-Chairs Representative John Harris (R-Valdez) and Representative Bill Williams (R-Saxman) said efforts to open the refuge for exploration must continue.
"It's a continuing educational effort," Harris said. "The state benefits tremendously from development in that area, not only in general funds, but also from jobs and development of the economy."
"I think it's very important to keep the ANWR issue out in front of the public," Williams said. "It's a small amount to pay for what we can receive in the end."
Arctic Power will receive $1.1 million to persuade members of the U.S. Congress to approve opening the refuge to exploration. Harris said the interest group has made progress in this effort over the years.
"They do a very effective job," Harris said. "They have cleared up many misconceptions about ANWR and as a result many people have changed their opinions to support exploration there."
The Native Village of Kaktovik will receive $100,000 for its own community outreach effort to gain Congressional support for opening ANWR. Kaktovik sits within ANWR and has been a proponent of exploration in the refuge.
"They're people who are affected by the exploration," Williams said. "It's right in their front yard. It's important we show the people back East that members of the Native Community are supportive of exploration in ANWR."
"They use that money to travel to Washington, D.C. to tell their story and to bring people to the village for educational purposes," Harris said. "There's probably no better argument for opening the refuge than the one made by the people of Kaktovik. They know the area better than anybody. They've been there for centuries."
The governor's office will also receive $100,000 to fund its efforts to open the refuge. Both Williams and Harris said the governor will be more active than ever before in the ANWR debate and needs support to do so.
"For the first time in a long time we're going to have our governor go back to Washington, D.C. to advocate for development in ANWR, which really hasn't been the case in the last eight years," Harris said. "We want the governor to be active in this effort, and this funding helps him in his efforts."
"The governor just came back from Washington, D.C. after spending 22 years there," Williams said. "He knows how things work there so I think it's important he keeps on top of the issue."