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Nov 10, 12:39 PM EST

Alaska lawmaker sees financial boon in refuge drilling



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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski says her legislation to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling would generate $2 billion in royalties over the next decade - with half the money going to her home state.

But environmental groups and other critics call those projections wildly optimistic, noting that recent sales on Alaska's North Slope have fallen short of projected revenue. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a fiscal watchdog group, says the drilling legislation is likely to generate about $100 million for U.S. taxpayers - one-tenth the amount Murkowski and the Congressional Budget Office predict.

Because of high exploration costs in the remote Arctic, analysts say oil prices must be at least $70 a barrel to justify drilling.

A benchmark for crude oil is about $57 a barrel.

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