SPEECH: Sullivan speaks about Alaska's Willow project

WASHINGTONMadam President, I want to turn to energy now. You know the President is in Saudi Arabia. There is a lot of irony here, I believe, because his administration has clearly made it harder for Americans to produce American energy with American workers, with American infrastructure. That is a fact. That is a fact, OK? I see it in Alaska every day--every single day. The Federal Government is trying to stop the production of American energy. 

What are we seeing? Inflation, super high prices at the gas pump--literally, everything. Senior administration officials are going to Wall Street. Senior administration officials who are Federal regulators for finance are all trying to choke off capital to the American energy sector. It hurts my constituents. It hurts the country.

So the President is going to Saudi Arabia to beg them to produce more. He should send an envoy to Texas or an envoy to Alaska and say: Hey, how can we produce more here? How can we produce more here? I hope they are starting to change their tune. I hope they are starting to change their tune so that we don't need to beg the Saudis, dictators like Iran and Venezuela, and all these other autocratic regimes in the world to produce. We should produce it in our country. We have the highest standards in the world by far on the environment--by far. It is not even close. We have high standards of labor in the world.

The Biden administration, in my State, has been a disaster. They have issued 26 Executive orders or Executive actions solely focused on my State, solely focused on Alaska, none of which has been helpful.

Lately--lately--there has been discussion, constructive discussion, on a big project in Alaska called the Willow Project. The Biden administration is showing signs that they want to support it. That would make sense. The country needs energy. This would be done in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska set aside decades ago by Congress for oil and gas development--again, the highest standards in the world. I pitched the President on this project over a year ago in the Oval Office. By the way, it has some of the lowest emissions in the world of any big energy project. I am going to talk about who supports it. 

This has been in permitting for years. I won't go through the timeline, but this project, the Willow Project, has been in permitting for years. We could start building it this winter. As a matter of fact, we tried to start building it last winter.

Like I said, I pitched the President on this: 2,000 construction jobs; enormous support from the building trades, labor unions; lowest greenhouse gas emissions for a project this type and size in America. And it would help us not have to go beg from other countries.

But there has been a lot of press in the last week on the Willow Project. Of course, our mainstream media doesn't get it. They love to tell their kind of slanted story on the Willow Project, so I am going to push back. And, boy, if you are a reporter, I really hope you write down some of the stuff that I am going to talk about here because it is all factual. And with all due respect, most of you guys never write about these things.

I am going to start with this chart. This is a really important chart in my mind, and it is important because this chart goes to an issue that really, really strikes to the heart and soul of why resource development in my State in particular is so important.

This chart is from the American Medical Association, and it looks at life expectancy from 1980 to 2014: 25 years. And in different parts of America, you see different life expectancy in these different colors.

The blue, darker blue-purple is areas where life expectancy has increased dramatically in the last 25 years.

Unfortunately, there is yellow, orange, and even red. Life expectancy has slowed or even decreased in a few places. If you look at the map, that is mostly due to the horrendous opioid epidemic that we had as a nation.

But if you look at this chart, the one State where life expectancy has increased the most, by far, is the State of Alaska. The one area in the State of Alaska that has increased the most in terms of life expectancy are many of our rural areas: North Slope Borough, Northwest Arctic Borough, Aleutian Island chain--13 years, 13 years. In 25 years, people's life expectancy went up that much.

I have asked many times my Senate colleagues, Give me a policy indicator of success more important than are the people you representing living longer. Give me one. There isn't one. That is about as important as it gets.

And in my State, it has happened. It has happened. Why has it happened? Why has it happened? Well, I will tell you why it has happened. First, in a lot of these rural areas, unfortunately, the life expectancy in the early eighties was quite low.

These are primarily Alaskan Native communities, and they had some of the lowest life expectancies of any Americans--sometimes of any people in the world--because they didn't have things, like good jobs and flush toilets and clinics. They lived in real poverty. So we started really low.

And then what happened? What happened that in these mostly Alaskan Native communities people started living longer? I will tell you what happened. They started getting jobs. Resource development happened, responsible resource development: oil, gas, mining, fishing.

So when I talk about these issues, when Senator Murkowski talks about these issues, it is not just some kind of pie-in-the-sky issue of oil and gas. I mean, this is about life and death, which is why I come down here a little bit riled up sometimes because people don't have a clue. People don't have a clue.

The radical enviros who try to shut down the economies of my State all the darned time and some U.S. Senators--primarily the senior Senator from New Mexico--who come down here and try to shut this down, they don't understand. 

So people are living longer in Alaska, much longer, more than any other part of the country because we have had responsible resource development, which brings me back to Willow.

So, again, you will see all these articles in the Washington Post, all these stories. Heck, there is three this week, I think, about this one project. And they are all slanted. And you have got some Lower 48 environmental group in New York City or San Francisco--oh my gosh, climate bomb--all this rhetoric that is hot air--pardon the pun--but not accurate. Who is supporting this project? Who is supporting?

You have an incredible diversity of people supporting this project. First, the unions, every major union in America--building trades, AFL-CIO--they are all supporting this project. They are all supporting this project. 

But what I really want to emphasize is another group that is very special to me that supports the Willow Project. And you see here some of the symbols of these groups right here. 

Some are the Alaska Chamber, Oil and Gas Association, Resource Development Council, but most of these symbols here are the Alaskan Native people--the Alaskan Native people, the leaders of a really important constituency in Alaska, the First Peoples of Alaska.

Why am I saying this? Because our national media never talks about this, right? They will pick one group, one leader--oh, we are against it--so they write about it. That is baloney. 

The leaders of the Alaska communities, the Native communities are overwhelmingly supportive of this project. And here is my point: This administration loves to talk about environmental justice, environmental equity, communities that have been discriminated against to make sure they have access to proper environment, but you know what they do? They have been doing it for a year-and-a-half. When they talk about environmental justice, environmental equity, they always forget about Alaskan Natives.

They purposefully forget about Alaskan Natives. I see it all the time.

They can't do it this time. This project--and come on, media, write the story. This project has overwhelming support by the Native leaders and Native communities in Alaska.

So if you are for environmental justice and racial equity, all the things that the Biden administration says they are for, you better be a Willow supporter. 

And for those in the Biden administration, Gina McCarthy and others, someone should ask her, Why are you discriminating against Alaskan Native people, because that is exactly what you are doing.

So you have, right here, some of our Alaska Native leaders in this statement:

The administration cannot proclaim to support meaningful tribal consultation and environmental justice while at the same time killing a critical resource [project] that supports . . . the Inupiat communities of the North Slope [region].

That is right there from our great Alaska Native leaders, the Alaska Federation of Natives. I have their letter. That is the group representing every single Alaska Native organization in the State, the biggest group in the State, fully supports the Willow Project.

The ANCSA Regional Corporation leadership fully supports the Willow Project.

The Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope fully supports the Willow Project.

Senator Murkowski just put out a press release. 

Madam President, Alaskans Voice Strong Support for the Willow Project. She has a huge list of Alaskan Native groups and others who are supporting the Willow Project.

Madam President, so here is my point: The next time the media writes a big story on Willow and environmental justice and racial equity--which they love to do--and Alaska, they need to include this. This is the truth. They need to include the strong union support.

Go talk to the laborers, go talk to the building trades, go talk to Sean McGarvey, Terry O'Sullivan. See what they think about Willow.

There is one group that doesn't like Willow. It is the same group that doesn't like anything in America. It is the radical far-left environmental groups that are trying to shut down my State and keep Native Americans, Native Alaskans, impoverished in Alaska. I am not going to let that happen.

Here is one final thing. It is funny, not funny--Amusing, not amusing. Again, this is really important. This is about life and death. 

You have all these stories about Willow in the national media, but what really, really kind of burns me up is there is a story--you know, they talk about the climate bomb, whatever the heck that means; it is not factual. But the one story I never see about Federal lands--real big increases in oil and gas production, real big increases in emissions--that never gets written about, again for our friends in the media--never--is what is going on in New Mexico, what is going on in New Mexico.

Well, we know some of the Members, the senior Senator from New Mexico, he loves to come after Alaska projects; I don't know why. Shut them down. Maybe to divert the media's attention from what is going on in his State. But I just want to give a couple stats. 

Since 2019, New Mexico has increased production in its oil production by 700,000 barrels a day. It is pretty impressive. They were at 800,000 barrels; they have increased by almost 700,000. They have increased more than Alaska even produces in 3 years. 

It is now the second largest oil producer in the country. The senior Senator from New Mexico recently bragged that is up 400 percent. OK. Good for him. 

It is still amazing to me; he comes down here a lot, writes letters to try to shut down my State. But, whatever, I don't go after New Mexico. But I do want our friends in the media to just kind of ask the questions. Boy, oh, boy, you want to talk about climate bomb: 700,000 barrels a day. They have more carbon emissions than Alaska by far. Nobody is writing that story. But it is also how we do our environmental standards in different States. My State has the highest standards in the world on energy production--New Mexico, not so much. 

Let me just give you a couple of examples: The average well in Alaska is 28,000 barrels a day because it is conventional. We are actually--the resource is so rich there, we are not fracking like they do in the unconventional area. The average well in New Mexico produces 100 barrels--a hundred barrels to 28,000. So what does that mean? You have to drill 280 wells in New Mexico just to reach the equivalent of one in Alaska.

So the environmental footprint is much bigger. The carbon emission is much bigger. New Mexico flares its gas. We reinject our gas--again, highest environmental standards in the world.

We conduct our exploration and drilling activities only in the winter. You have to build ice roads, ice pads. Zero impact. I used to be in charge of this.

It is very expensive to do that. One little drop of anything--chewing tobacco--on the tundra, you have to report it. So where is the story about what is going on there?

Where is the carbon bomb story on New Mexico? Where is the story that the Secretary of the Interior has directed almost half the Federal permits to drill in the country to one State? Do you think it is Alaska? No way. They are trying to shut us down.

You think it is Texas? Nope. North Dakota? Nope. It is New Mexico. Golly gee, isn't that interesting?

I sure hope--look, it is terribly suspicious from my perspective that one State has received more Federal energy permits in the last 15 months than all other States in America combined. The Secretary of the Interior is from New Mexico. OK. Maybe there is something there. 

But here is the bottom line: There have been barrels of ink spilled on every single project in Alaska--Willow, this week. But reporters shrug their shoulders, look the other way. Maybe it is because it is a blue State, they don't want to touch those guys, when it comes to New Mexico. No wonder Americans don't trust the media.

I am going to conclude with this quote. It is from a Wall Street Journal editorial written by the North Slope Borough mayor, Harry Brower, the Inupiat leader of the North Slope community and Josiah Paktotak, who is the State rep. These are two Alaska Native leaders elected. They are fully supportive of Willow. 

It was in the Wall Street Journal, entitled ``Let Alaska Sell American Energy to the World,'' and it was written in March, as Russia was invading Ukraine. 

They said: 

Even as Russian tanks lined up on the Ukrainian border in February, the Biden administration froze U.S. drilling on Federal lands and issued rules making it harder to build natural gas pipelines. 

By the way, that is the rule that I am putting forth a CRA resolution to rescind. 

They continue: 

We may be Inupiaq Eskimos 5,000 miles away from the Washington policy machine, but we know crazy when we see it. And this is crazy.

And the American people know it. 

Now, look, the President is in the Middle East, meeting with allies, asking for the Saudis to produce more oil. But as he would say: Come on, man. You got to start at home. You got to start at home. 

The Willow Project in Alaska, supported by the Native community, supported by the unions--I would guarantee supported by probably 90 percent of Americans--it is time to get things like this done. 

So our NEPA Congressional Review Act and our advocacy for commonsense projects, like Willow, supported by every single group in my State--and I sure hope the media writes about this--especially the Native people--if they shut this down, that will be the ultimate injustice to indigenous people in Alaska, and they know it. And that is one of the many reasons why they shouldn't do it.

I yield the floor.