Another ANWR Hearing…TODAY?
Today in Anchorage the Interior Department will hold what is, hopefully, one of the last hearings dealing with the environmental impact statement preceding the leasing of a small section of the huge Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil & gas exploration and perhaps, eventually, development.
Non-Alaskans will forgive us locals for being somewhat battle weary when the subject of “ANWR” comes up. After all, the activists do this for a living or for a major volunteer avocation. Most of us have jobs and have to take time off from actual work to testify. So after decades of hearings about ANWR, it is tiring for us. But do we have a choice as caring citizens?
In the early 70s, the Arctic Gas Consortium proposed to bury into the ANWR permafrost a 48″ natural gas pipeline. Over $250 million was spent on clearing the way for that environmentally acceptable project over what was then the “Arctic National Wildlife Range” (i.e. “Refuge” today). For decades we have known that construction of facilities in that area would minimally impact the environment. Construction would occur from ice roads in the winter when migratory species like waterfowl and caribou were absent.
With six decades of intense North Slope experience under our belts, many Alaskans have learned that industry presence has been a net benefit to the environment and to North Slope villagers. Access to the Prudhoe Bay oil and gas producing areas, previously accessible to poachers. is restricted. The elevated gravel roads and pads allow summertime birthing caribou herds to rise above the mosquito infested tundra thus benefiting the health of the animals in an area where mosquitos were the greatest cause of caribou calf mortality. Even in the summer, we have learned that equipment noise at Prudhoe Bay is ignored by caribou herds as they graze and enjoy the lack of mosquitos in the breeze on gravel pads above the tundra.
The hearing today will likely attract a large crowd of Internet-coordinated environmental activists. Alaskans are used to the opinions activists offer our Washington visitors. They will say that ANWR activity will hurt bird and animal migrations and threaten the future of polar bears.
As a nearly 50 year resident familiar with the people, wildlife and land of the North Slope, I have observed most of the objections to reasonable development to be exaggerated at best, if not outright misleading.
My own experience is that the greatest threat to ANWR wildlife occurs in the summer when well meaning, good intentioned writers, photographers and filmmakers fly over vast herds of animals and birds causing a dramatic movement of wildlife in response to the scary noise and aircraft apparition above them. As these human caused stampedes occur, bird and caribou infants and parents are separated by the hundreds and thousands with unknown but potentially massive loss of life.
If any industry deserves to be more heavily regulated in wildlife areas like ANWR, it should be documentary producers seeking to cause massive, premature movements to delight purchasers of movie tickets.
I noted above that Alaskans could be somewhat weary of ANWR testimony that began in the early 70s. In the early 80s, as we noted on Friday, Senator Stevens fought the good fight for continued Alaskan access to the “range” made “refuge” and obtained Congressional support for that access.
Congress broke that word time and time again as Alaskans sought authority to access the 1002 area. The one time access was granted (i.e. before the Trump administration successfully achieved that goal) President Clinton vetoed it.
Below are a number of links to previous ANWR hearings and commentary which we have archived here. We hope it may be useful to those preparing oral and written testimony for the hearing this afternoon–or, to send in later.
A Link History of ANWR Testimony and Commentary
9-13-11 Has Commentary Gone Crazy? Has Commentary Gone Crazy? Commentary by Dave Harbour Yesterday, after we sent out this email alert, an elected official said, “I’ve commented to these d___ federal agencies six times on the need to have Chukchi and Beaufort Sea OCS and ANWR exploration. Now you’re asking me to do it again on the ‘final’ version of a ‘Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement’ for Chukchi and on the USFWS effort to convert ANWR’s 1002 oil and gas section into wilderness. How many times to I have to comment?” he asked. “As […]
ANWR Points To Consider:
In preparation for proposed oil and gas lease sales in the 1002 Area of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the Bureau of Land Management has published a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). Public comments on the DEIS are due March 13 after which BLM will prepare a final EIS and issue a record of decision on how to conduct the leasing program.
In addition to the customary “no action” alternative, the DEIS proposes three alternatives for leasing in the 1002 Area. The alternatives include measures designed to avoid or mitigate surface impacts and minimize ecological disturbance. At this stage BLM has not designated a preferred alternative.
The EIS will serve to fulfill requirements of the 2017 Tax Act to hold not fewer than two areawide lease sales on the coastal plain by December 2024. The first lease sale would be held after the Final EIS and Record of Decision is issued and will offer no fewer than 400,000 acres areawide of high-potential lands for bid.
The footprint of production and support facilities will be limited to no more than 2,000 surface acres at any given time, including private land holdings inside the coastal plain. Future on-the-ground actions, including potential exploration and development proposals, will require further National Environmental Policy Act analysis based on the site-specific proposal. As a result, decisions evaluated in this leasing EIS and its record of decision would not authorize any on-the-ground activity associated with the exploration or development of oil and gas resources on the coastal plain.
In 1980, Congress identified the 1002 Area for its potential oil and gas resources. A 1987 Department of the Interior report fulfilling requirements under Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) recommended the 1002 Area for oil and gas development. Since completion of that report, numerous oil fields have been discovered near the coastal plain and oil field technologies have significantly evolved.
Points to consider in your comments:
• Responsible oil and gas development in the small fraction of ANWR proposed for leasing will help ensure America’s energy security for decades.
• The DEIS includes a wide range of alternatives which contain measures to avoid or mitigate surface impacts and minimize ecological disturbance throughout the program area.
• Under the three development alternatives, the footprint of production and support facilities will be limited to no more than 2,000 surface acres of the 1.6 million-acre 1002 Area.
• Energy production from the non-Wilderness coastal plain has the potential to offset a decline in Lower 48 shale oil production, which is expected to commence in approximately a decade.
• The program area covered by the DEIS contains an estimated 7.68 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
• Alaska’s economic lifeline, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), is now running at three-quarters empty. New oil production from the coastal plain has the potential to reverse throughput in TAPS, a vital component of American energy infrastructure.
• Oil development on a fraction of the coastal plain would create thousands of jobs nationwide, generate billions of dollars in government revenue for public services.
• Since the non-Wilderness coastal plain is less than 60 miles from TAPS, development of energy resources there is one of the most environmentally-sound ways to increase oil production in Alaska.
• Thanks to continuing improvements in technology, practices, and oversight, the oil industry has demonstrated over the past 40 years that North Slope energy development and environmental stewardship can and do coexist. The industry has a proven track record of responsible development in sensitive areas, protecting the environment, wildlife and subsistence needs of local residents.
• Advances in technology have greatly reduced the footprint of development in the Arctic. As much as 60-plus square miles can now be developed from a single 12 to 14 acre gravel drill site.
• Polls have consistently shown Alaskans overwhelmingly support responsible oil and gas development in the non-Wilderness portion of ANWR.
• While renewable energy is a growing part of America’s energy portfolio, it is still projected to account for a minority of American energy production in 2040. New oil and gas production will be required to power America’s economy and can serve as a bridge until renewable energy becomes a dominant energy source decades into the future.
• The coastal plain was specifically identified by Congress, pursuant to Section 1002 of ANILCA, for its potential for oil and natural gas resources. Oil and gas from the Non-Wilderness portion of the coastal plain is an important resource for meeting our nation’s energy demands and achieving energy dominance.
Caring Alaska Citizens: Hearing Today!
When: 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. (I recommend you show up by 12:30 and sign up to testify early beginning at 1 p.m. First witnesses get most attention from visiting officials and the media!)
Where: Dena’ina Convention Center
What: Public input on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, here, pertaining to a limited oil and gas leasing program for the Coastal Plain of ANWR. Even a brief comment on the importance of responsible development to you and your family is valuable. Professional input from engineers, chemists, geologists and OUR ELECTED LEADERS is important. However, input from ordinary Alaskans on the importance of natural resources for sustaining our government, our jobs, our futures is also important. LESS IS MORE; that is, keep your remarks short and impactful and to the point. Be respectful.
More: For your convenience, here is a message from our friend Carl Portman, CANDIDLY describing the meeting in more detail.
Management is hosting a public meeting in Anchorage Monday, February 11th to gather public input on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement pertaining to a limited oil and gas leasing program for the Coastal Plain of ANWR. Please mark your calendar now for this critical event. We need all hands on deck!