#OffshoreArctic Event Highlights Broad Support for Arctic OCS Development

July 1, 2016 in Blog

This week, the Arctic Energy Center, in conjunction with Roll Call, hosted a discussion titled “Arctic Offshore Investment: Perspectives on the Development of Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf.”

In her keynote address, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) expressed concerns that the Obama Administration might remove the existing Arctic lease sales from the Interior Department’s upcoming five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program the same way it excluded the entire Atlantic region in March:

 “We’ve already seen what Interior has done with the Atlantic OCS removed from consideration in the next five-year plan despite strong support from residents and elected officials. […]So we’re  worried, we are worried, that Interior now plans to hit this delete button on both the Beaufort and   the Chukchi sales, even though such a decision would have serious consequences for North Slope communities, for the State of Alaska, and I believe for the rest of the country.”

Senator Murkowski also referenced the testimony of John Hopson Jr. (Mayor of Wainwright) who expressed a clear need for new development at a recent Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee hearing:

“The reason that Mayor Hopson came before our committee that day was to register his concerns about the federal government’s wavering commitment to Arctic oil and gas development. And he told us that those activities provide the only revenue to be able to live back home, and he told us that without measured responsible development of Alaska’s offshore resources, our communities would face a grim economic future.”

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Joseph W. Ralston explained why Arctic offshore oil and gas development is critical to our national security:

“If you look at the map, from Alaska you can be anywhere within 90% of the industrialized world in less than 8.5 hours. Now, Washington has never quite understood that. Fed Ex gets it. UPS   gets it. The two major hubs that they have are in Anchorage, Alaska. The Air Force gets it   because of the aviation thing. […] The Air Force has three wings of premier fighters; the F-22 (one of those) is in Alaska. Why?

If you have a few assets, you better put it in a place that can go East or West, where they’re required to go.”

General Ralston reiterated Sen. Murkowski’s earlier sentiments regarding Alaska Native communities and their support for offshore investment:

 “You talk to the people at Wainwright, Mayor Hopson who Sen. Murkowski talked about, they want the Coast Guard there. They want a deepwater port in Alaska. And the only way you’re going to get that is with private investment and what we’re talking about – our leasing in the Arctic waters.”

Rosetta Alcantra, President of E3 Environmental, and an Alaska Native, described how the needs of her community are linked to oil and gas investment. She described how the jobs brought in by energy investment are hugely important to her community:

 “As a small company, these opportunities on the front end really provide getting the needed infrastructure that we desire, but also putting Alaskans to work. As a mother of four, I’m really concerned about that because where are my children going to go to work?

Alcantra then lamented that too often it is outsiders who speak on behalf of Alaskans when it comes to energy exploration. She explained that the “1 million comments” submitted by the Alaska Wilderness league were not an accurate representation of how the Alaska Native community feels about Arctic OCS leases:

 “The fact that policy is made usually behind a big desk sipping a latte, doesn’t really resonate to folks like myself and the Mayor Hopson, who are actually out there you know having to forge for  our livelihood and keep food on the table for our families. So that’s really why I’m here.”

Eventually, Alaska Wilderness League’s panelist, campaign director Leah Donahey,  was forced to explain forced to explain why her organization’s opposition to Arctic oil and gas development contradicted the views of many Alaskans and stated:

“Just to reiterate, I’m not an Alaskan, in case people didn’t know that.”

The fact that all the panelists who were Alaska residents– a senator, a retired general, and a business leader – offered unanimous support for Arctic oil and gas development only strengthens the argument for why the Obama Administration should keep the Arctic in the forthcoming offshore oil and gas leasing program