Resounding Local Support for Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Development

June 13, 2016 in Blog, Local Perspective

As presidential candidates and a small group of lawmakers from the House and the Senate representing states thousands of miles from Alaska join the ranks of activists – activists whom even environmentalists consider extreme – campaigning to ban Arctic offshore oil and gas development, their soundbites and slogans pale in comparison to the overwhelming support for continued oil and gas exploration and production from those who actually live in the Arctic region.

Below, Arctic Energy Center highlights selections from the loud chorus of local voices, ranging from Alaska Natives and regulators to local business leaders and elected officials, urging the federal government to include the Arctic in its upcoming five-year offshore leasing plan and to keep the Arctic open for oil and gas development.

Alaska Natives

Rex Rock Sr., President and CEO of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), which represents 12,000 Inupiat shareholders:

“ASRC strongly favors continued Arctic OCS [Outer Continental Shelf] exploration and development and supports Alternative A of the Draft PEIS [Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement]. Arctic OCS exploration and development would bring additional jobs, higher wages and increased tax revenues to both the North Slope region and the State of Alaska. Moreover, continued exploration and development of the Arctic OCS would serve the national interest by contributing to the United States’ long-term energy security.”

Gail Schubert, President and CEO of the Bering Straits Native Corporation, which represents 7,300 Native shareholders:

“For Alaska’s future, it is critical to keep the Chukchi and Beaufort elements of the lease plan unchanged. This will allow for the state to remain a stable, predictable environment that is conducive to industry’s continued investment. Developing Alaska’s Arctic OCS resources has economic benefits that expand well beyond the borders of our state. If activity was allowed to occur in the region, the nation could see an increase of nearly 55,000 jobs. Those jobs would generate an estimated cumulative payroll of $145 billion. Federal, state, and local governments would be able to generate an estimated $200 billion in revenue as well.”

Matthew Fagnani, CEO of the Aleut Corporation, which represents 3,750 Native shareholders:

“I’m writing to express my strong support for the Draft lease plan and its inclusion of the Chukchi and Beaufort regions. The OCS represents a bright light of potential in Alaska’s economic future. …. The BOEM lease sales provide some level of predictability and certainty for industry to engage in long-term strategies to develop the Arctic’s vast resources predicted at 27 billion barrels of oil, and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. With that comes thousands of high paying jobs for Alaskans and nationwide and a potential to protect the viability and integrity of TAPS allowing it to remain productive for decades.”

Michelle Anderson, President of Ahtna Corporation, which represents 1,903 Native shareholders:

“We need the federal government to take a proactive approach with their vast acreage to provide economic benefits for Ahtna and all Alaskans. Several Alaska Regional Corporations, including Doyon and Ahtna, are attempting to develop our own lands for oil and gas development. We need major oil and gas and mining companies to continue making multi-billion dollar investments in Alaska to keep TAPS [Trans-Alaska Pipeline System] running for the next 40 years, to protect our Ahtna culture and to provide economic benefits to our shareholders.”

Hugh Patkotak, CEO of the Olgoonik Corporation, which represents 1,300 Native shareholders:

“Olgoonik Corporation supports the leasing schedule as set for leasing under existing terms and conditions which will require BOEM to hold a Chukchi Sea offshore lease sale. … we believe that BOEM should move forward with its existing leasing schedule as planned. … Oil companies who hold offshore drilling leases have engaged the community of Wainwright, as well as other communities on the North Slope of Alaska, in every step of the process, especially when it comes to the environment and subsistence uses by our communities. These companies are conscientious to and consider our concerns in regarding to the environment and subsistence practices.”

Teresa Imm, General Manager of the Arctic Inupiat Offshore (AIO), a joint venture between ASRC and six North Slope village corporations:

“AIO and its members are supportive of responsible resource exploration and development, both onshore and offshore, in Federal and State lands and waters. The economic stability and subsistence lifestyle of our communities is of paramount importance to AIO, as both the benefits and adverse impacts of oil and gas exploration and development are felt by our communities. It is through critical analysis of the abundance of traditional knowledge and scientific research, along with the history of safe operations and collaboration with industry that AIO is able to support responsible resource development, onshore and offshore.”

Ron Perry, President and CEO of Teya Technologies, a certified Alaska Native Corporation:

“The billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of gas estimated to exist in the OCS represents hundreds of jobs for Alaskans and a way to maintain the viability of Alaska’s lifeline – the Trans Alaska Pipeline. Because Alaska literally lives on oil and gas, the stakes for us are high. The opportunity is within reach if the final version of the 5-year OCS lease plan includes the Beaufort and Chukchi Sea Regions for leases. Alaskans deserve access to our natural resources that have been our way of life for centuries and can pave the way to our future.”

Arnold Brower Jr., Executive Director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission:

“The success of the CAA [Conflict Avoidance Agreement] Process and the cooperative regulatory management provided by BOEM, as well as NMFS, make the Chukchi and Alaskan Beaufort Seas appropriate and highly suitable for continued inclusion our nation’s energy development plans.”

Alaska’s Leaders

Last month, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) wrote to DOI Secretary Sally Jewell to reiterate their “strong support” for an offshore leasing plan that includes the Arctic:

“The areas under consideration for leasing in Alaska’s OCS contain vast resources that our nation will need to maintain its economy and security. Those resources can be produced safely if a stable, predictable regulatory regime is put in place. Bringing them to market is favored by most Alaskans and will help maintain affordable energy prices for the American people. With longer lead times and considerable investment required for production in the Alaska OCS, it is critical that the process begin now with new, area-wide lease sales.”

Local Elected Officials

During a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing, John Hopson, Jr., Mayor of the City of Wainwright, Alaska, told the Committee that it was clear that the people in his communities support drilling, and that “we need development; it just amounts to that.” In his testimony, he provided insight as a mayor, a whaling captain and a commissioner on the Alaska Whaling Commission, a member of the North Slope Borough Assembly, and a shareholder of Olgoonik Corporation and of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation:

“In reviewing the Proposed Program, I am deeply concerned – and I speak for many many people in our communities – that BOEM appears to be wavering in its commitment to continuing Arctic OCS leasing and exploration. … We appreciate BOEM’s interest in protecting our communities, but we urge BOEM to take seriously its responsibility to provide for development in a way that will support our communities. … The oil and gas industry is also the source of many jobs for the Native shareholders of our Alaska Native corporations, including oil field contracting, regulatory permitting, engineering, pipeline design and maintenance, property leasing, and spill prevention and response. We need those jobs to truly sustain our communities. To put it simply, though we work hard to protect our subsistence way of life, we cannot hunt without bullets and fuel, and we cannot buy bullets and fuel without jobs that provide income.” 

Mike Navarre, Mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough:

“The industry has a long record of respecting the environment and the communities, and taking whatever steps are needed to eliminate or reduce impacts. The communities on the Kenai Peninsula Borough expect the industry to continue meeting those high standards, and we expect the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will do its part, too, by including Cook Inlet acreage in the 20 17-2022 five-year oil and gas leasing program. … The oil and gas industry is a major employer, taxpayer and community partner in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, as it is elsewhere in Alaska. I ask you to include Cook Inlet acreage in particular and, more broadly, Alaska Outer Continental Shelf acreage, including the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s five-year leasing program 20 17-2022. As residents of a resource state, we know our role in helping to fuel the nation, and we also embrace our role to help protect the nation’s environment.”

Michael Aamodt, Mayor of the North Slope Borough:

“As it relates to the Arctic, BOEM captured the right sentiment in the initial notice of the 5-Year plan which stated ‘[o]ffshore exploration in the Arctic must occur in a way that is safe, responsible, and respectful of the Alaska Native communities that depend on the ocean for subsistence.’ 79 FR 34350. The Borough could not agree more.”

Chad Hutchison, on behalf of Alaska State Sen. John Coghill (R):

“Federal regulatory agents must consider, along with just making the leases available, the real operating environment for companies after the lease sale is complete. The federal government must maintain fairness. It must recognize the unique challenges with drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The Shell matter proves instructive in that regard. Much can be improved, including opening larger windows for drilling and streamlining the authorization process.”

Rick Mystrom, who served two terms on the Anchorage Assembly and two terms as Mayor of Anchorage:

“We know the resource is there and Alaskans support exploration and production in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Inclusion of these leases in the final plan will not only benefit Alaska, but the nation as a whole. The nation could see an increase of nearly 55,000 jobs generating an estimated payroll of $145 billion. To ensure that Alaska and the nation have a sustainable energy source in the coming decades approval of the current plan for 5-year leasing in the OCS is a must. This will allow the whole country to benefit from Alaska’s Arctic value.”

Regulators

Sara Longan, Executive Director of the Office of Project Management & Permitting in the Alaska Department of Natural Resources:

“The State of Alaska continues to strongly encourage BOEM and the Department of Interior to avoid delaying offshore OCS leasing in the three Alaska planning areas. There is sufficient information available, collected from years of data gathering and traditional knowledge, about these planning areas to proceed with activities that comply with defined mitigation and environmental stipulations designed to relieve adverse impacts. … The State of Alaska strongly encourages BOEM To adhere to a five-year leasing plan that ensures timely and predictable access to Alaska’s highly prospective OCS lands.”

Local Business Leaders

Curtis W. Thayer, President and CEO of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce:

“Alaskan Arctic development has the potential to provide an average of 54,700 new jobs nationwide with a cumulative payroll of $145 billion. However, in recent years we have seen the federal government remove over 42 million acres of Alaskan waters from potential oil and gas leasing. These actions combined with other recent decisions have raised regulatory hurdles and discouraged prospects for Alaskan OCS development, further winnowing down the potential leasing area and decreasing economic security for Alaska.”

Lisa Herbert, President and CEO of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce:

“The oil and gas industry operating in Alaska has taken great strides to operate in a safe and responsible manner. To date, there have been over 80 wells drilled in the Arctic OCS without incident and industry continues to work to improve upon techniques for operating safely and responsibly in the Arctic. … Industry has been proven many times over that oil and gas development can co-exist with the people of the Arctic. The oil and gas companies operating there have continuously supported essential services for our state such as public education, public safety, and much-needed health care for our citizens. The inclusion of the Beaufort and Chukchi OCS oil and gas leases are vital to our economy and to the energy independence of the nation. These benefits cannot be overstated.”

Carl Portman, Deputy Director of the Resource Development Council:

“As the Proposed Program notes, the Arctic areas are especially promising to help meet the country’s long-term energy needs. Energy development in the U.S. Arctic would also significantly bolster the nation’s influence in a strategically critical area, bring much needed infrastructure to the region, and provide additional response capabilities in an area where shipping and other activities are increasing.”

Rick Boyles, Secretary-Treasurer of the General Teamsters Local 959:

“The Teamsters mission is to organize and educate workers toward a high standard of living. Getting behind opportunities for resource development in Alaska supports that mission. The Arctic OCS represents an opportunity for Alaskan workers to learn new skills in the oil and gas industry and for thousands of good paying jobs. This could not be more critical for Alaska’s economy which is reliant on the oil and gas industry, whose production has been in steady decline. The OCS 5-year lease plan currently includes Beaufort and Chukchi Sea leasing areas and its important those areas are retained in BOEM’s final plan. The current lease plan represents a predictable and stable level of certainty for oil and gas companies in Alaska that will not invest or engage in strategies to develop the Arctic OCS without that predictability.”

A.J. “Joey” Merrick II, Business Manager/Secretary Treasurer of the Laborers’ Local 341:

“I join 72% of Alaskans who support offshore development because we recognize the huge opportunity for economic development. The Arctic OCS is predicted to produce an annual average 35,000 direct and indirect jobs over the next half century for Alaska alone. At a time when oil and gas exploration and production is in decline, the OCS offers the next great opportunity for oil and gas exploration and production in Alaska with the good paying jobs and wages that come with it. Companies need predictability and sustainability to invest the dollars and engage in long-term strategies to develop the Arctic’s vast resources and the lease sales will provide that. It is imperative that the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea leases remain intact in BOEM’s final plan.”

Cari-Ann Carty, Executive Director of the Alaska Process Industry Careers Consortium:

“A robust workforce and associated economic benefits provided by development of the Arctic OCS is clearly in the public interest. APICC strongly urges BOEM to include Alaska leasing opportunities in the final plan for the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, as well as Cook Inlet and consider the economic benefits of developing the Arctic OCS.”

Marilyn Romano, Regional Vice President of Alaska Airlines:

“The price of oil and the unstable regulatory environment have caused major companies to leave the state. Without the stability of future opportunities more companies will start their exodus. For Alaska, that’s a major concern, and why predictable lease sales in the Arctic OCS are so important. Alaska’s future and the nation’s chance to responsibly grow our energy independence are at stake. I appreciate your consideration.”

Harold Hollis, Vice President of WHPacific:

“I am one of the many Alaskans who support offshore development. In fact 72 percent of Alaskans are supporters. That is a clear mandate from Alaskans that would like BOEM to maintain inclusion of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in the plan. …. From an economic standpoint alone, promoting and fostering Arctic OCS development would represent a windfall for the national economy.”

Jim Jansen, Chairman of Lynden Incorporated:

“For Alaska and the nation, it is critical to keep the Chukchi and Beaufort elements of the lease plan unchanged. Industry will invest and strategize in Arctic OCS development where there is a stable, predictable business environment that OCS lease sales will provide.  The economic impact will benefit both Alaska and the nation with a potential job increase of nearly 55,000 jobs and a payroll of $145 billion. Federal, state, and local governments would be able to generate an estimated $200 billion in revenue as well. … Beaufort and Chukchi Sea leases will guarantee a sustainable energy source for Alaska and the U.S. and must remain a part of the lease program. The whole country will then benefit from Alaska’s Arctic value.”

Stephen Grabacki, President of GRAYSTAR Pacific Seafood:

“From an economic standpoint alone, promoting and fostering Arctic OCS development would represent a windfall for the national economy. Similarly, in 2008, Lease Sale 193 netted the federal government greater than $2.6 billion in bonus bids, and, moving forward, revenues generated from Arctic OCS oil and natural gas resources could amount to nearly $200 billion in revenues to federal, state and local governments. … Leasing and subsequent Arctic OCS exploration and development would bring much-needed infrastructure to the region and would also provide additional response capabilities in an area where shipping and other activities are increasing.”