Feds asked to keep Alaska in OCS plan

Oceana: There is no compelling reason to schedule OCS lease sales in Alaska at this time

Gov. Bill Walker is urging the Obama administration to keep Alaska in the five-year Outer Continental Shelf plan, saying the state needs access to its resources.

Walker, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack met in Washington this past week with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Ross Hopper, Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze and others in the Interior Department, as well as Brian Deese, a senior advisor to President Obama, to plead their case.

“With oil prices and production down, Alaska must be focused on the long game,” Walker said. “The trans-Alaska oil pipeline is three-quarters empty. When Alaska became a state, we were told to live off of our resources. We just need access to them,” he said.

Walker and Mack flew to Washington D.C. directly from meetings in Singapore and Korea to promote the purchase of liquid natural gas from an Alaska natural gas pipeline.  “Federal backing is important as we engage with the market on this project,” the governor said.

Earlier in the week Kara Moriarty, president and chief executive officer of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, told the Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce that while AOGA agrees that Alaska needs a more diversified economy, her association does not agreed that the state is in the last days of an oil economy.

The oil and gas industry will continue to look for ways to keep production at sustained levels in Cook Inlet and on the North Slope, Moriarty said.


There is a lot of oil left in existing North Slope fields and on state land, she said.

Mike LeVine, an attorney with the environmental organization Oceana, noting Moriarty’s comments, said there are no current industry plans for offshore exploration and simply no compelling reason to schedule OCS lease sales in the Alaska Arctic at this time.

“We hope this (Obama) administration will chart a new course for a sustainable future for the Arctic Ocean, based on science, precaution and planning,” LeVine said.

“There is simply no rush to sell leases. If there is oil under the Arctic Ocean, it has been there for one million years.  It will be there for one million years more and we can wait until we know how to extract it safely and reasonably before selling leases.”

Lois Epstein, Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society, said the government should be “focused on the long game, which means protecting the Arctic Ocean instead of risking catastrophic environmental damage by exploiting the world’s most expensive, high risk oil.

“The concern is that cleanup technologies have not improved for decades and are very limited,” she said.

“Removing the Arctic Ocean from the final offshore leasing program is the right thing to do to protect Alaska’s northern coastline and to help meet our nation’s greenhouse gas reduction commitments to the international community,” she said.

“We cannot ignore that Shell’s many serious problems in the Arctic Ocean in 2012 and 2015 proved that the industry is incapable of safely mobilizing and drilling in such a remote place and with such extreme weather and ice. Alaska’s northern coast has no Coast Guard base, little infrastructure to support a spill response and the industry lacks the technology to recover significant amounts of spilled oil,” she said.