Real Clear Energy recently published a column by Alaskans Dr. Herb Ilisaurri Schroeder and Dr. Matt Ggax Calhoun about the need to retain the Arctic leases that are currently in the Interior Department’s 2017-2022 offshore oil and gas leasing program. In their column, Drs. Schroeder and Calhoun, who both traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to meet with lawmakers and officials in the Obama Administration, outlined the many opportunities presented by the continued development of the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) region, arguing that continued offshore oil and natural gas development is vital to the region, especially to Alaska Natives.
Both authors have unique authority on this issue: Dr. Schroeder is the founder and Executive Director of the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) and Vice Provost and Professor of Engineering at the University of Alaska Anchorage, while Dr. Calhoun is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Alaska Anchorage and an ANSEP alum.
In their column, Drs. Schroeder and Calhoun noted that oil and gas development has been crucial in supporting the Alaska Native community:
“This industry contributes the revenues needed to support infrastructure, schools, community centers and other basic services.”
Drs. Schroeder and Calhoun also explained that Alaska Natives have been heavily involved in oil and gas development in the region by contributing traditional knowledge as well as oilfield services:
“They provide insight and feedback on proposed oil and gas operations that are then incorporated into drilling plans, and they have played an invaluable role in growing the body of scientific knowledge of the Arctic by contributing their traditional knowledge. For decades, they have provided oilfield services, entered into joint ventures with oil and gas companies, and even pursued their own oil and gas exploration projects. This summer, no fewer than two Alaska Native corporations are drilling exploration wells of their own.”
They had strong words for those attempting to speak for Alaskans in their opposition to Arctic energy development:
“Critics of Arctic OCS development grasp stringently to the mentality that environmental stewardship and offshore development are dichotomous goals. They have even led efforts to criticize and derail these projects ‘on behalf of Alaskan Natives’— mostly from Washington, D.C. Recently, a group of scientists flung their hats into the debate ring and called on the Obama Administration to oppose adding any new OCS leases to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) draft proposal to allow oil and gas leasing during 2017 to 2022 in the offshore Arctic.
“Yet, our own organization, the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP), which represents 2,000 Alaska Native middle school students, high school students, university students and ANSEP alumni, is overwhelming at odds with these opposition efforts. And the reason is simple: Alaska Natives will actually live and feel the benefits of Arctic OCS developments. Alaska Natives will see the creation of thousands of new jobs and millions in new revenue that can be invested into communities and local programs.”
Wrapping up their column, Drs. Schroeder and Calhoun had a simple message to deliver:
“And as for critics attempting to denigrate and derail these developments, Alaskan Natives say to them: let’s allow these issues to be guided by the hands that have the most at stake in this discussion—Alaska Natives.”