Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 1:52 PM on Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lawmaker proposes state pay part of ad campaign backing ANWR development

The Associated Press

JUNEAU — An Alaska lawmaker is proposing state funding to support advertising campaigns that promote drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, is the lead sponsor of HB358, which has attracted seven Republican co-sponsors.

The bill calls for Alaska to fund at least half of out-of-state advertising campaigns promoting drilling in ANWR. The rest of the funding would come from a trade group, which the state commerce department would contract with to run the campaign.

Pruitt said the idea came from a trip that he and other legislators took to Washington, D.C., earlier this session and from previous state efforts to promote Alaska tourism and fishing industry through ad campaigns. He said the point is to dispel misinformation about the environmental impact of drilling and of Alaskans' opinion of development.

Pamela Miller, Arctic program director of the Fairbanks-based Northern Alaska Environmental Center, said the state should avoid taking a hardline position on such a contentious issue.

"There are many Alaskans who passionately support protecting the refuge," Miller said. "Why should the oil and gas industry be subsidized when they advocate for drilling this priceless refuge?"

Pruitt insists the issue meets less opposition in Alaska than conservation groups, like Miller's, suggest.

The bill cleared the House Labor and Commerce Committee without opposition and awaits a hearing in House Finance.