Feds, Enviros and Disloyal Alaskans Threaten Alaska’s Economic Future
Dave Harbour
This week, Erika Bolstad of the Anchorage Daily News wrote that, “The three-decade-long fight over whether oil companies should be allowed inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is taking on a new wrinkle that could lock up the refuge for good.” The Associated Press’ Dan Joling reported that, “Alaska Native and conservation groups have filed challenges to clean air permits the Environmental Protection Agency granted Shell Oil for drilling exploration wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.  …’Shell’s drilling threatens to pollute the air we breathe, and EPA needs to regulate the emissions more strongly,’ said Caroline Cannon, president of the Native village of Point Hope, in a prepared statement.”
In 1959, Alaska’s Statehood and Constitution rested on a premise that the new state would be weaned from territorial status by exercising the sovereign rights accruing to states to manage their own natural resources and financial affairs.  
When the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) passed the Congress 30 years ago–20 years after statehood–one small trade-off for the massive wildernesses created was designation of ANWR’s Coastal Plain as an area that, with approval of Congress, continued to be subject to oil and gas exploration and development. At that time, citizens might have questioned whether or not ANILCA had violated the statehood compact by diminishing Alaska’s ability to develop her resources, as promised.  Alaska and Alaska Native Regional Corporations have still not–at this writing–received from the Federal government all of the lands promised to them, respectively, under the Statehood Act and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA)…and as the Federal government places lands into ‘protected’ categories, the freedom of Alaska and Regional Corporations to choose from those areas is diminished.  Less than 1% of Alaska is owned by private parties, other than ANSCA corporations.
More oil and gas from offshore reservoirs and onshore areas like ANWR can help Alaska maintain thousands of jobs, support a longer life for oil and gas pipelines, and provide future, Federal revenue sharing dollars to Alaska.  Such development is essential if the state is to maintain its lifestyle based on oil’s 85+% support of the government’s operating budget and 1/3 support of the overall economy.  See these Alaska OCS and national economic studies.
Our first point today is that with the current ANWR assault and cumulative effect of other White House, EPA, Corps of Engineers, NOAA, etc. offensives, the Federal Government continues to push Alaska closer to the point that it has no choice but to challenge Federal violation of the statehood compact or face economic collapse.
We note the increasingly hostile, disloyal, suicidal acts of some coastal leaders (i.e. from Point Hope, Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, North Slope Borough) who are banding with environmental extremists (i.e. Center for Biological Diversity, et. al.) to attack Alaska’s natural resource potential.  The unrelenting attack on Chukchi and Beaufort Sea activity–and recent legislative initiatives to disrupt resource development–bear witness to this deceit and/or stupidity.  Our second point today is that this strategy could lead many thought leaders closer to the conclusion that rural areas–in seeking to shrink Alaska’s economic pie–must share the pain by receiving less financial support from overly paternal, enabling government agencies.  In the same breath, we would note that many in these areas and leaders representing more responsible constituencies support reasonable development, albeit less vocally.
Our third point today rests on Point Hope’s ridiculous allegation concerning the supposed global warming and other harm that Chukchi and Beaufort exploration activity will cause: "What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, Point Hope,” we say.  We ask Point Hope and its activist friends, “Should other Alaskans who are being harmed by your Anti-resource development mischief urge the EPA and DEC to enforce all of their rules in your village areas?  How about motor boat gasoline spills?  What happens to used auto, 4-wheeler, generator and snow machine motor oil? How about used batteries?  How about human pollution in village areas?  Shouldn’t we make sure villages are consuming nothing but low-sulfur fuel for power generation and transportation before criticizing a lawfully operating company for not doing MORE than burning low-sulfur diesel?  
If memory serves, it wasn’t exploration companies two years ago that went out collecting wild bird eggs and on the way killed a hundred caribou–in the name of subsistence–leaving most to rot on the tundra.  It wasn’t companies that beheaded nearly 80 walrus of Alaska’s Northwestern coast in 2007, in the name of subsistence or traditional art. Nearly 400 years ago, George Herbert warned that, ‘Whose house is of glass, must not throw stones at another.’  Our fourth point is that we wonder how long fellow citizens will withhold judgment before branding Coastal Activist ‘holier than thou’ actions as hypocritical.  

ADN by Erika Bolstad.  The three-decade-long fight over whether oil companies should be allowed inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is taking on a new wrinkle that could lock up the refuge for good.

Associated Press by Dan Joling (AP).  Alaska Native and conservation groups have filed challenges to clean air permits the Environmental Protection Agency granted Shell Oil for drilling exploration wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.  …"Shell’s drilling threatens to pollute the air we breathe, and EPA needs to regulate the emissions more strongly," said Caroline Cannon, president of the Native village of Point Hope, in a prepared statement. Point Hope is an Inupiat Eskimo village of 713 on the coast of the Chukchi Sea, 330 miles southwest of Barrow.  … One appeal, filed Monday with the Environmental Appeals Board by 11 groups, including Cannon’s, said the permits allow Shell’s drill ship and support vessels to emit tons of pollutants into the Arctic environment off Alaska’s north and northwest coast, harming Inupiat people and wildlife and contributing to climate change.

Mark MacIntyre, an EPA spokesman in Seattle, said the agency had not seen the appeals and it was the agency’s policy not to comment on them.  …  Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith said in an e-mail reply to questions that the company believes its permits will be upheld.  "We have worked exceptionally hard to ensure our emissions footprint in the Arctic is as small as possible," he said.  "That upgrade, combined with the use of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel on all of our vessels, means Shell is not only meeting emissions requirements for operating in the Arctic, but far exceeding them."… In granting that permit, EPA officials said requiring the Shell drilling ship to burn ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel and other conditions would reduce particulate emissions by 72 percent and sulfur dioxide emissions by 99 percent, from 181 tons per year to 2 tons.  The requirements don’t go far enough, according to the groups appealing. … Smith said delays in the appeal process could adversely affect Shell drilling plans.
"Without air permits, we cannot drill in 2010," he said. "As a result, we not only require a favorable outcome from the EAB to proceed, but also a timely one."
Energy Business Reports.  Having witnessed in 2008 the first major signal that future conventional oil and gas supplies will become much harder to find and more expensive to develop, we are publishing this analysis of deep water production around the world. As secure energy supplies become increasingly difficult and expensive to extract, an accurate forecast of supply/demand dynamics becomes more important.  Historically, global economic recessions have led to declining energy demand, but the resultant lower prices have soon led to a recovery in demand and then prices, especially as OPEC has acted to rein in output to tighten supply. This trend has already been reflected in the oil markets to some degree. In the gas sector, supplies will be available only if investment in infrastructure, above all long-distance pipelines and LNG conversion and receiving plants, is well advanced. 
Obama Administration Attack on the Economy is Felt Not Just in Alaska!
(Commentary below from U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Republicans.  We ordinarily avoid partisan reference is this webpage, but the office of Rep. Doc Hastings has been the most vigilant Member to observe Federal government attacks on the economy via natural resources and environmental policy initiatives.  -DH )
Over two months after Republicans requested missing pages and information regarding the Obama Administration’s “Treasured Landscape” document that details plans to designate new national monuments, the Department of Interior (DOI) last night released just 383 pages of emails. 
The emails simply raise more questions about these potential designations, while failing to provide any substantial information regarding the Administration’s plans.
Items of note:
  • While DOI released 383 pages, they are purposely withholding at least 2,016 pages of documents.
  • DOI refuses to turn over ALL the pages of the “Internal Draft” document of which only pages numbered 15 to 21 have been revealed.  DOI is not only withholding the first 14 pages, but also any pages that likely come after page 21.
  • DOI did not release attachments seen and referenced in the emails.  They did however release an attachment of the Republican letter to the Secretary requesting the documents.  In fact, of the 383 pages they provided, at least seven of them were letters and emails from Committee Republicans requesting the documents. 
  • The emails reveal that other DOI agencies including the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Reclamation were involved in contributing to this document.  In an email, BLM officials confirm that there are other sections of the document that have not been released. (See Email #1)
  • The Department of Interior claims that this document was “very preliminary” and the result of a “brainstorming session,” yet the emails show that Secretary Salazar received presentations of bureau proposals as far back as October 2009.  (See Email #2) 
  • Secretary Salazar has said “that there is no direction from the White House on any of this,” yet the Department was discussing meeting with the White House on the topic last November.  (See Email #3)  This raises questions about whether the White House was aware of this document and the extent of their involvement.
Today, the House Natural Resources Committee will markup H. Res. 1254, a Resolution of Inquiry directing the Secretary of the Interior to transmit to the House of Representatives specific information relating to potential National Monuments designations.  The Resolution was introduced by Ranking Member Doc Hastings (WA-04) and National Parks, Forest and Public Lands Subcommittee Ranking Member Rob Bishop (UT-01) following the Department of Interior’s (DOI) refusal to cooperate with previous written requests for additional information.  The Resolution has received strong support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as the American Motorcyclist Association.
“I’m hopeful that my Democrat colleagues on the Committee will help ensure government transparency and accountability by doing everything within the Committee’s power to obtain these missing documents from the Interior Department,” said Hastings.  “It’s highly suspicious that after more than two months the Interior Department can’t produce one additional page from the Treasured Landscape document to support the Administration’s claim that the internal documents are merely products of brainstorming sessions and bear no real consequences.  On too many occasions we have seen this Administration say one thing and follow up with actions that are entirely contradictory to its words.  If the Administration truly has nothing to hide, then show the public all the documents.”
Republicans are concerned that 13 million acres of Western land will be put under lock and key without any Congressional or public support, much like the Clinton Administration’s dark of night use of the Antiquities Act to create Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument in Utah.
House rules provide that the Democrat Majority on the Committee has 14 legislative days to report the Resolution of Inquiry or it can be brought to the Floor of the House of Representatives for a vote as a Privileged Resolution.