Regulations, Not Kayaks, Are Stopping Arctic Development

October 14, 2015 in Blog

To the activists claiming credit for Shell’s decision to withdraw from the Arctic, fellow activist Antonia Juhasz has news for you: It’s not always about you.

As a recent Houston Chronicle article described, anti-Arctic energy activists have been eagerly high-fiving each other and patting themselves on the back for what they describe as their influence over Shell’s decision:

“[T]hose who fought against Arctic drilling for years say the spirited protests against Shell’s work were inevitably part of the company’s calculus in deciding to leave the region after spending $7 billion searching for crude.”

Even though experts, such as university professors from the University of Washington and  Drexel University, have poured cold water on the activists’ claims of glory, perhaps the message  will ring louder coming from one of their own.

In an article published in Newsweek this morning, Juhasz explained the “significant regulatory restrictions” that ultimately made Arctic oil development prohibitively expensive:

“…the federal government placed significant regulatory restrictions on Shell’s permits. These included effectively limiting Shell to drilling just one hole at a time and giving the company only a relatively short, three-month period to work in the Arctic.”

The recognition of the stifling limitations the federal government placed on Arctic development is all the more significant coming from Juhasz, given her credentials as an outspoken opponent of the oil and gas industry. Her anti-drilling resume includes:  being arrested and charged with trespassing for interrupting a Chevron shareholder meeting and “starting a derisive chant; ” authoring a book titled The Tyranny of Oil: The World’s Most Powerful Industry—and What We Must Do to Stop It; serving as “a fellow at the petro-critic organization Oil Change International”,; and finally, demanding in the pages of The Guardian that the operations of oil companies be “restricted, reined in, regulated and, ultimately, retired.” Juhasz is no stranger to writing pieces that can be described as “blistering critique” or a “thorough, readable takedown of Big Oil.”

Of course, Juhasz’s description of the regulatory hurdles crippling Arctic development echoes that of many others, from Native Alaskans to Alaskan Senators to local elected officials:

Rex Rock, Sr., President and CEO of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), which represents 11,000 Inupiat shareholders, said,

“The federal regulatory environment has proven to be a burden for any development, whether onshore or offshore. With this type of uncertainty, we will continue to see good opportunities slip away because no one wants to do business in Alaska.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said:

“What we have here is a case in which a company’s commercial efforts could not overcome a burdensome and often contradictory regulatory environment.”

Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) said:

“From the beginning, through unprecedented regulatory hurdles and delays, the Obama administration and its environmental allies have created the conditions for Shell to abandon its Arctic drilling program. And they succeeded.”

Alaska House Majority Representative Ben Nageak (D-Barrow) said:

“That’s staggering to me. That our government can cause so much delay and hamstring a well-meaning and heavily-invested company like Shell into throwing up their hands.”

At a time when media coverage of Arctic energy development tends to feature the loud clamoring of activists while drowning out the voices of local Alaskans, it is refreshing for an activist to choose facts over self-promotion– in this case, to recognize the powerful role burdensome regulations played in paralyzing Arctic energy development.