Calgary Herald by Bryce Forbes.  The pilot killed in a crash in southern Alberta on Sunday was patrolling pipelines when the plane went down.

We Are Proud of Two Legislators and Lamenting Our Loss Of Faith In American ‘Rule of Law"

Commentary By

Dave Harbour

Cathy Giessel, Photo by Dave Harbour, US Corps of Engineers, Point Thomson, 404 permitsCharisse Millett, Photo by Dave Harbour, Point Thomson, OCS, 404 permitOver the last four ‘Obama Years’ no Alaska legislators have been more diligent than Senator Cathy Giessel (NGP Photo-R) and Representative Charisse Millett (NGP Photo) in joining with Governor Sean Parnell to oppose the continuing flood of federal attacks against Alaska natural resource development.

Most recently, the two have written federal offices "urging" the granting of permits required under the Clean Water Act before another winter work season is lost. (i.e. Giessel letter, and Millett letter)

First applied for three years ago, the permits would allow development of the Point Thomson oil field on the Alaska North Slope (ANS) which contains about a third of the 35Tcf of ANS natural gas proven reserves including a prodigious supply of petroleum liquids.  If transported to Prudhoe Bay via a small diameter pipeline, the petroleum liquids existing under high pressure in the field could be used to enhance recovery of Prudhoe Bay oil reserves and slightly work against the declining throughput of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS).  

TAPS is 2/3 empty now and this American Energy Lifeline (which once transported 20% of domestic oil reserves) is within sight of closure.  Without new reserves from various adjacent ANS areas, it could close within the decade, leaving high and dry Alaska’s state operating budget that is 90% dependent on ANS oil.  A vanished TAPS could also create a hit on Alaska’s economy, almost 1/2 dependent on the direct and indirect economic activity produced by sale of ANS crude oil.  Alaska would again become a ward of the federal government after depleting its various savings accounts in relatively short order.

Waiting in the wings is an area within ANWR (i.e. 1002 area), designated by Congress for oil production.  The Obama Administration’s Interior Department via its Fish and Wildlife Department is developing recommendations to convert that area into untouchable wilderness.  

Congress has also designated a "National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska" for oil and gas exploration and development but the Obama Administration’s Interior Department via its Bureau of Land Management has developed recommendations to convert the most important transportation corridors and exploration areas into untouchable wilderness.   This follows several frustrating years wherein the Administration’s EPA and Corps of Engineers for specious, indefensible reasons delayed granting of bridge access to ConocoPhillips.  This is in an area for which the company had purchased federal government leases it reasonably expected to develop.

Also adjacent to the Alaska North Slope are the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas whose shallow waters (about 150′ in the exploration area) contain some of the most exciting prospects for oil and gas exploration and development.  Perhaps two dozen billion barrels of oil there, or more, could support over 50 thousand jobs per year throughout America, decrease our dependence on foreign oil, reduce the balance of payments deficit and add billions in federal revenue (i.e. and a good deal to local treasuries assuming Congress passes a revenue sharing bill for Alaska like that which benefits Gulf of Mexico states).  Shell Oil and other companies have purchased from the Interior Department over $2 billion in leases with the reasonable expectation of being able to explore and develop them.  The companies have spent another $2 billion preparing for work during the brief, summer exploration seasons.   However, the Obama Administration’s Interior Department, EPA and Corps of Engineers have year after year delayed granting of several of the several dozen key permits required.   Shell is within days of having to pull the plug on yet another summer exploration season following this 2012 summer silly season of Federal keystone cops bureaucratic bungling.

This litany of anti-Alaska resource development federal attacks doesn’t even include efforts to designate nearly 200,000 square miles of coastal area as ‘critical habitat’ (under the Endangered Species Act) for Polar Bears, even as their populations increase.  The litany does not include federal efforts to designate valuable fishing grounds as ‘critical habitat’ for Steller Sea Lions, even as their populations increase.  This litany does not include federal efforts to designate Alaska’s most populace area around Anchorage as ‘critical habitat’ for Beluga Whales, even though their populations are increasing.  We also have not mentioned EPA efforts to derail legally permitted projects on state lands after leases have been tendered but before permits have been applied for–a gross violation of due process.  Finally, we have not listed here the litany of horrible economic effects and losses of freedom that will surely follow Obama’s pending execution of his non-Congressinally approved or funded project to "zone the oceans".  Ocean zoning will prevent thousands of human activities now legally permissable from ocean areas up thousands of miles of rivers and streams throughout interior America–including the Great Lakes.  The project has been initiatied by Executive Order and money legally appropriated for other purposes has been illegally used like a slush fund at White House direction to support planning for ocean zoning.

Accordingly, as we praise Senator Giessel and Representative Millett, we now have experience and evidence suggesting that one way or another federal gatekeepers will take further action to stop or stall Point Thomson activity and Arctic OCS activity this year.   If the agencies do permit these projects in the next few days, it will be a case of very little, very late…maybe too late.  The sad thing is that even if some permits are belatedly approved, it will be with our suspicion that the approvals are motivated more by an upcoming election than by the desire to ‘do the right thing’ for America.

For those who think we are too hard on Obama and his federal-environmental cabal, please note that we began this four year term with reserved judgment and a high degree of respect for the new Administration, the rule of law and those entrusted with the power to reasonably regulate federal policies in Alaska.  Experience has taught us that this Administration determines outcomes and virtually ignores common sense, public hearing input and due process.  Accordingly, we have much reason, now, for criticizing this Administration whose greatest failing may well be the destruction of our faith in America’s rule of law.  Instead of being objective and reasonable, exercise of the federal rule of law in Alaska and perhaps elsewhere around the country is now fully demonstrated to be arbitrary, capricious and subject to undue influence by environmental extremist groups.

Many of us have lost faith in the trustworthiness of our federal government that will take a determined effort and a new generation of leaders to restore.