Informed decisions require one to have information before reacting. Environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGO’s) often take an “act first, listen later” approach when they hear about possible operational incidents within the energy industry. This activist rhetoric is never more blatant than when we turn to Alaskan energy development.
Offshore development in Alaska has withstood activist disparagement (mostly from those outside of the state) for decades. It has been able to do so because the vast majority of energy producers are responsible operators who go to great lengths to protect the areas in which they operate. Despite this reality, ENGO’s continue to target the offshore energy industry and its employees in an attempt to push out their “keep it in the ground” mandates.
The latest example of activist opportunism is focused on Cook Inlet operations. After Hilcorp Alaska reported seeing a sheen on the water last weekend, activist groups immediately took out their megaphones, decrying that all pipelines must be shut in and inspected. The groups put out press releases and social media statements claiming that the company has no right to work in the Arctic due to its Cook Inlet track record. These groups jumped to conclusions based on suppositions in an attempt to sway lawmakers, regulators and the general public.
This weekend, the company conducted hydrostatic pressure testing on the pipeline. Results of the testing were released today and showed the line to be in good working condition. Divers also inspected the line and found no damage. These results, coupled with the estimated leak amounting to less than three gallons of oil, confirm what the company originally thought, that the line was not the cause of the sheen seen on water last Saturday. Simply put, these activist groups should have waited for the facts before claiming unfounded conclusions.
Groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity, InsideClimate News, and the Sierra Club have all highlighted the Cook Inlet activity as reasoning for why the companies should not move forward with offshore development, further focusing on the promising Liberty project in the Beaufort Sea. This weekend, Lois Epstein of the Wilderness League published an op-ed that dramatically mischaracterized the oil leak to argue that Arctic drilling is hazardous and the company should be stopped. A few weeks prior, the Center for Biological Diversity issued a press release with a similar argument line, where they questioned the safety of the Liberty project. See a pattern here? ENGO’s have gone above and beyond in their attempts to tie two unrelated projects together in the name of anti-energy messaging.
This Cook Inlet episode is a perfect example of the flawed tactics ENGO’s use to push their message. Without facts, these groups create the narratives they think will garner the most attention from the general public and shout them from their digital rooftops. Arctic energy exploration requires extensive planning and research. If activists conducted even a small fraction of the amount of research in their own line of work, they would make decisions that were extensively more informed than their current narratives.