Alaskans Respond to Wilderness League Saying They “Completely Disregard Needs of Local People”

July 21, 2016 in Blog, Local Perspective

The head of the Arctic Iñupiat Offshore (AIO) and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) expressed frustration with activists speaking on behalf of local Alaskans in an op-ed published today saying that they are “shockingly out of touch with the economic realities in our region and our state.”

Rex Rock Sr., president of AIO and ASRC described how vital oil and gas revenue is to North Slope communities, and how outsiders calling for a ban on Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) exploration should not do so from the guise of the “Native perspective.”

Rock cited a recent Arctic offshore investment forum, in which a representative from the Alaska Wilderness League attempted to make a case against Arctic offshore drilling:

“Other forum participants like Leah Donahey, senior campaign director for the Alaska Wilderness League, completely disregarded the needs of the local people and remained shockingly out of touch with the economic realities in our region and our state. Donahey’s testimony in opposition to the OCS leases leveraged emotive arguments and incorrect facts regarding Arctic offshore activities that undermined the intelligence of Alaskans, my fellow Native Iñupiat and our well-respected Alaska delegation. She offered no science, no facts, no research — and most importantly — no alternative to how to feasibly replace the opportunities OCS development would bring us.”

The aforementioned Arctic offshore investment discussion afforded the Alaska Wilderness League multiple opportunities to promote the needs of the Alaskans that they claim to represent, but unfortunately, they chose to champion unrealistic energy options for local communities. In one instance, an audience member asked Donahue if she genuinely believed that the tens of thousands of jobs created by the oil and gas industry could be replaced with renewable energy jobs.

Her response, and the dialogue that followed, did not inspire confidence:

Alaskan Wilderness League: “I’m not suggesting today that it can be replaced, I’m just suggesting that investing in renewable energy jobs locally, over time, hopefully would take over.”

 “You’ve had conversations with villages about that? Could you be specific?”

AWL: “I know some communities have started to look into investing in renewable energy, whether that’s wind, geothermal, those types of things. It hasn’t progressed, obviously, to the level of the oil and gas industry. It will be decades I believe before that will happen. We really feel that investment in renewable energy today would, hopefully, replace jobs over time. We don’t think that continuing to invest in oil and gas development will get us to the type of future we’re looking for.”

 “So with the leases being in the five year plan, you don’t have a suggestion on how to replace all of the economics of oil and gas jobs short term”

AWL: “I do not.”

Earlier this week, the Arctic Energy Center made a similar case against the Alaska Wilderness League and its readiness to speak on behalf of local Alaskans when promoting its environmentalist agenda. After the Alaska Wilderness League claimed that “big oil” was the champion of Arctic offshore drilling, the Arctic Energy Center politely pointed out that it was not “big oil” that needs Arctic oil the most:

“The Wilderness League’s portrait of the Arctic is a beguiling one, but it fails to acknowledge the realities of life in Alaska. Native groups and a clear majority of the state population have unequivocally stressed the essential role that the oil and gas industry plays in Alaska’s economy. As the Department of the Interior finalizes its leasing program, it is critical that it acknowledges their viewpoint and not those of a small, albeit vocal, minority claiming to save the Arctic on their behalf.”

When organizations claim to be Alaskan, they need to promote the actual needs of Alaskans, and not their own itineraries. While one can appreciate the efforts the Alaska Wilderness League pours into its causes, they should not do so under the false pretense of representing Alaskans. Rex Rock’s community and the other communities of Northern Alaska need energy exploration revenue in order to continue to provide basic services to residents, and they need this revenue now. It’s hard to believe that a group with “Alaska” in its name is choosing to push for policies so detrimental to the citizens of Alaska.