The Critical Importance of Energy Access in Alaska’s Coastal Plain
Posted March 18, 2019
In light of last week’s comment deadline for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Alaska’s Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program, it’s important to remember just how critical natural gas and oil development is to the Alaskan economy, the Alaskan people, and the long-term energy security of the United States.
First, some background: Recent tax reform legislation required the U.S. Interior secretary to establish and administer a competitive program for the leasing, development, production and transportation of natural gas and oil in and from Alaska’s coastal plain, also referred to as the 1002 Area. This area holds a vast energy potential and opening it to natural gas and oil leasing would provide the first step toward exploration to assess its resource value.
We’ve talked before about the benefits natural gas and oil development brings to those who live in Alaska’s North Slope, and what it means to the future of U.S. energy. What hasn’t gotten as much attention, though, is the four-decades long track record of safe and responsible development by the natural gas and oil industry at Prudhoe Bay and other North Slope fields.
This was the focus of the joint comments submitted to BLM by API and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association. API Vice President of Upstream and Industry Operations Erik Milito, on the importance:
“Nearly 104,000 Alaska jobs are attributable to oil and natural gas investment and activity, which represents 32 percent of all Alaska jobs and 35 percent of all Alaska wages. The oil and natural gas industry has contributed over $150 billion to the state of Alaska through royalties and taxes, and provides the largest cash contribution to the Alaska Permanent Fund. These benefits have been produced through an established record of safe and environmentally responsible development that is respectful of all of Alaska’s natural resources, and the communities that depend upon them.”
Natural gas and oil development in Alaska’s North Slope has an impressive record of environmental stewardship and innovation, an important factor when you consider that the U.S. Geological Survey estimates the 1002 contains at least 11.6 billion barrels of oil in-place. And industry’s innovation extends far beyond energy exploration in its contributions to Alaskan life. Take for example the collaboration of natural gas and oil operators and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in development of procedures, training and best practices for managing human-polar bear interactions, which have set the global gold standard for human-bear interactions and have been repeatedly recognized as a success.
In their comments, API and AOGA listed several concerns regarding BLM’s proposed stipulations and required operating procedures. The two associations noted that only one of the DEIS’s four development alternatives offered sufficient access to areas of the Coastal Plain to allow reasonable development of its oil and natural gas resources in the same careful manner in which development of the National Petroleum Reserve has taken place. Industry’s comments also include recommendations for corrections to assure the DEIS is not unreasonably restrictive, inappropriate, or not supported by the best available science. Milito:
“The Coastal Plain, as well as other energy reserves onshore and offshore, should be seen in a strategic context that can be accessed responsibly and safely, offering national energy and security benefits. In other words, the energy is valuable to the United States’ long-term strategic interests.”
Read the full joint comments here.
About The Author
Jessica Lutz is a writer for the American Petroleum Institute. Jessica joined API after 10+ years leading the in-house marketing and communications for non-profits and trade associations. A Michigan native, Jessica graduated from The University of Michigan with degrees in Communications and Political Science. She resides in London, and spends most of her free time trying to keep up with her energetic Giant Schnauzer, Jackson.