Candidates Draw Protestors In Alaska While Discussing Drilling In The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

This story was written by Toben Shelby, The Northern Light

It's one of the most divisive issues in Alaska politics and over the past several years has become a heated national issue as well. With record prices of barrels of oil and gallons of gasoline climbing higher, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the hot topics this political season.

Candidates running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives have made it a point to visit ANWR, and on Thursday, July 17 candidates from Utah, Indiana, Pennsylvania and elsewhere appeared with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin at a press conference inside the Millennium Hotel in downtown Anchorage to discuss ANWR and the visit.Outside the hotel about 20 activists and protestors touting signs and slogans, such as "go back home," gathered in the rain to vocalize their opposition to drilling in ANWR and to the visit from drilling proponents.Several of the demonstrators were part of environmental organizations, such as Jennifer Hillman, who is a staff member from the Alaska office of the Washington based Alaska Wilderness League."We're here to let them know that not all Alaskans want to see the Arctic Refuge drilled and many Americans don't want to see the Arctic Refuge drilled," she said."We need wilderness, we need protections, and so we're hoping that they're going to take this to heart."While there are at least two clear cut views on the issue, there is also plenty of gray area in between. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican nominee for a U.S. House Seat in Utah, on his fourth trip to Alaska visited ANWR for the first time over the weekend of the 19th. Chaffetz favors developing ANWR, but is clear that it is not the sole solution for America's energy issues."I think we should be pursuing all options, I wouldn't take anything off the table," he said in a phone interview."To me, the proper role of government is to get out of the way and let the private sector pursue those different energy solutions. Everything from solar and wind and hydro and nuclear and bio, there's so many different things that fueling our future has got to be priority one for the United States of America."No matter what the eventual outcome of the debate is, Alaskans and the rest of the U.S. will be paying close attention as the government seeks to address an issue at the top of everyone's mind.Caroline Willis contributed to this report.