California-based activist group, Center for Biological Diversity, published a press release this week condemning Alaskan Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan for introducing legislation that opens Arctic waters to oil and gas development. The group’s claims ignore the wishes of the region’s people, while also pushing a simplistic and ill-informed view of the region as a “fragile ecosystem” that cannot be developed safely. Decades of research, experience and investment in the Arctic show that CBD’s claims couldn’t be further from the truth.
Oil and gas development plays a vital role in Alaska and the lives of its residents. The dominant economic driver in the region, the industry accounted for roughly 90 percent of the state’s general revenue in 2015. Additionally, oil development in Alaska has provided around 110,000 jobs and $6 billion in public and private sector wages.
Given the massive economic benefits, it’s no surprise that many Alaskan’s believe oil and gas development is crucial for the state to thrive. In fact, a recent survey found that 76 percent support offshore oil and gas production. Considering this overwhelming support, CBD’s claim that the bill goes against the will of the people, is puzzling to say the least. As Miyoka Sakashita, spokesperson for the Center for Biological Diversity in their release,
“It’s shameful that the Alaska congressional delegation has so little regard for the horrendous damage the oil industry could do to this fragile ecosystem and the people who live and work along this coast.”
In addition to greatly misrepresenting the views of local Alaskan, CBD’s comments touch on another unfounded claim used to bolster activist case; the region is so “fragile” that no development could safely take place there. On the contrary, since 1973 the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s
Coupled with government-funded research, oil and gas producers in the Arctic have invested billions of dollars in the region to ensure resources are safely developed and any potential impacts can be mitigated. For example, the Arctic Oil Spill Technology Joint Industry Program (JIP), a collaboration of major producers, has conducted a comprehensive literature review of over 960 research papers on oil spill response techniques and environmental effects of oil. The JIP continues to research new technologies, such as dispersants and remote sensing, to improve development safety, detection and response.
Oil and gas development in the Arctic is both vital and responsibly conducted. Providing billions of dollars in wages and state revenue, funding programs dedicated to safety and accident response, and with the support of a vast majority of Alaskans behind it, it’s not hard to see why the Center for Biological Diversity needs to push unfounded claims to support their argument against it.