The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) decision to cancel the two Arctic leases in its final OCS plan overshadowed some important news from the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) late last month. Hours before the administration’s announcement, Rex Rock announced that ASRC had acquired Shell’s Camden Bay leases in the Beaufort Sea. ASRC also announced that it was requesting information on two other prospects in the Beaufort, the Torpedo and Sivulliq leases.
This important news may have been lost in the shuffle once the final lease plan was announced but it demonstrated that the administration’s decision was not the Arctic energy plan that the Alaska Native community was hoping for. ASRC’s decision to take on these leases should be a huge signal to Washington about how the North Slope community feels about Arctic drilling and their desire for it to continue in earnest. During his announcement, Rock passionately stated:
“Slamming the door shut on opportunity does nothing to help my region or my people, either now or in the future.”
ASRC and Arctic Iñupiat Offshore (another group Rock heads that pushes for Native involvement in energy projects) were vocal about Arctic leases throughout the OCS planning process. Both groups joined the Arctic Coalition in an effort to show Washington that local communities support Arctic leases. The coalition of Labor, Native Corporations, and Alaskan business groups have spoken out time again in support of responsible development in the Beaufort and Chukchi.
The Camden Bay lease play is an enormous opportunity for ASRC, and clear example of how important the Arctic OCS is to Alaska’s economy. The lease transfer also comes with its fair share of challenges, further signifying that ASRC feels strongly enough about Arctic drilling projects as they are willing to take on such a great responsibility. ASRC took on the lease because they felt they were ready to assume responsibility for the energy development that takes place in their community. According to Rock:
“Our people do not want to be bystanders, watching development happen in our own backyard. Instead, we want to be active participants in the future of our region. We need meaningful jobs, a strong economy, and a healthy ecosystem to live and survive – just as our ancestors have done.”
Alaska leaders, local industry groups, and the North Slope community have all expressed their disappointment with BOEM”s decision to remove the two Arctic leases from its final program. Fortunately, they are not giving up on the Arctic. ASRC’s latest announcement proves that the its members see long-term potential in the Arctic. Rock echoed this message in his conclusion:
“I hope you can see now why our message to the administration is even more urgent and why we join others here in pushing for creating opportunity in the Arctic OCS. […] Therefore, it is even more important to consider how to make development in our region achievable, with the right policy and planning by both the government agencies and the Arctic explorers.”
With 2017 comes a new administration and the chance for new possibilities in the Arctic. Hopefully, the incoming administration will recognize the importance of Arctic energy and the communities who most rely on it for their livelihoods. ASRC and AIO have gone out of their way to show their commitment to energy development in the region, and its time the federal government acknowledged their views.