Arctic coalition urges DOI to keep Alaska sales in next OCS program

A coalition of 20 Alaskan and national organizations formally launched a campaign urging the US Department of the Interior to keep two oil and gas lease sales offshore Alaska in the next 5-year US Outer Continental Shelf resource management plan.

The effort—which is being led by the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Alaska Oil & Gas Association—included a full-page advertisement in several major newspapers in which former US Sec. of Defense William S. Cohen and 19 other former US military officers said omitting the sales would harm the nation’s ability to protect its interests and promote cooperation in the Far North.

The Wilderness Society and other Alaska OCS leasing opponents have argued that the oil industry’s reduction of operations in the state in response to depressed crude-oil prices shows reduced interest is untrue, said Jeff Eshelman, IPAA senior vice-president for operations and public affairs.

“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 campaign] will really emphasize,” Eshelman said.

“The breadth of Alaskan organizations which have come together, 16 in total, demonstrates the importance of this issue to our state,” AOGA Pres. Kara Moriarty said. “Despite repeated claims to the contrary by environmental groups, Alaskans overwhelmingly support oil and gas development.

“Without the lease-sale option, there is simply no prospect of future investment in the infrastructure which we need,” Moriarty said. “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.”

Other members of the coalition, the Arctic Energy Center, include the National Ocean Industries Association, the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, the Arctic Slope Regional Corp., and other Alaskan business, labor, and consumer organizations.

A draft of the proposed 2017-22 OCS plan, which DOI released in March, included a 2020 lease sale in the Beaufort Sea and one in the Chukchi Sea in 2022. Oil and gas trade associations and other groups called on the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to not remove or modify the lease sales as the comment period for the next 5-year plan closed (OGJ Online, June 17. 2016).

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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