WASHINGTON, D.C. – A coalition of groups in favor of resource development in and offshore Alaska is campaigning for the Obama administration to keep the Arctic leasing areas currently contained in the Department of Interior’s (DoI) draft proposed plan intact.
The draft program, revealed in March, allows for the possibility of lease sales to be held for federally controlled tracts in the Beaufort (2020) and Chukchi (2022) seas.
The Arctic Coalition, a group of 20 organizations representing Alaskan Native communities, labor unions, higher education programs, industry, and others, said it is launching a new advertising campaign in direct response to activists’ efforts to have those areas removed from the final schedule. The group says it wants to “articulate the essential role that oil and gas development plays in the Arctic and the importance of ensuring that it is included in the final leasing program.”
Jeff Eshelman, senior vice president for Operations and Public Affairs at the Independent Petroleum Association of America and a member of the Coalition, said: “Earlier this month the Wilderness Society became the latest to argue that industry’s ‘exit’ from the Arctic is proof that including the region in the offshore leasing program would be costly and unnecessary.
“Quite aside from the skewed logic of arguing that companies will never again be interested in developing the Arctic based on today’s commodity price, the idea that we’re not interested in the Arctic simply isn’t true. Today, industry retains over 40 offshore leases in the Arctic and continues to invest millions of dollars into research into oil spill response and preparedness and other areas. This campaign is further proof that industry is fully committed to responsible offshore development in the region.”
Kara Moriarty, president and CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, echoed Eshelman’s comments. “The breadth of Alaskan organizations that have come together, 16 in total, demonstrates the importance of this issue to our state. Despite repeated claims to the contrary by environmental groups, Alaskans overwhelmingly support oil and gas development in the Arctic offshore.
“Without the lease sale option, there is simply no prospect of future investment in the infrastructure which we need. I can’t stress this enough; taking lease sales off the table now sends a clear message that the federal government is hanging a ‘closed for business’ sign on our state, at a time when we are already facing huge budgetary challenges. The administration must think about what impact this will have on Alaska.”
Rex Rock Sr., president and CEO of the Arctic Slope Regional Corp., said to be the state’s largest Native-owned corporation, added: “Arctic OCS [outer continental shelf] 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.”
Eshelman continued: “The oil and gas industry’s impact on the economy of the Alaska is well known. What is less well understood is the crucial role it plays in supporting homeland security in the Arctic, so this is a theme that the adverts really emphasize. As the comments by Secretary Cohen, General Ralston and others make clear, private sector enterprise, specifically oil and gas development, is a critical pre-requisite to our national defense. We really shouldn’t be needlessly throwing it away, especially at a time of increasing international tension in the region.”
The imperative of America’s presence in and commitment to the Arctic has grown in prominence in recent weeks. In addition to the comments submitted to the DoI by former Defense Secretary William Cohen and others, a second group of foreign policy experts, led by a former National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama, General James L. Jones, issued a statement in July arguing that the United States “has not built the presence required to maintain regional security and stability” and “is at risk of being eclipsed by other Arctic states for access and influence.”
Earlier in the summer, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), introduced a resolution that highlighted similar challenges and called on the DoI to include the Arctic leases in the leasing program as a means of enhancing America’s national security. Last month, the current vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul J. Selva, raised his own concerns, saying “The fact that we don't have the capacity in any material way to have a surface presence in the Arctic is something that we ought to address.”
The Arctic Coalition is made up of a group of 20 Alaskan and national organizations. They are the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, Alaska Laborers District Council (Alaska Laborers Union), Alaska Miners Association, Alaska Native Regional Corporation CEOs, Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Alaska Petroleum Joint Crafts Council, Alaska Teamsters, Local 959, Alaska Support Industry Alliance (The Alliance), American Federation of Labor/ Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Alaska, Americans for Prosperity Alaska, Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, Arctic Energy Center, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Consumer Energy Alliance - Alaska, Council of Alaska Producers, International Association of Geophysical Contractors, Independent Petroleum Association of America IPAA, National Ocean Industries Association and Resource Development Council, Alaska.