Pro-oil groups prod Obama to continue with drilling
Margaret Kriz Hobson, E&E reporter
Published: Monday, September 12, 2016
A coalition of Alaska and national groups is launching a media campaign in Washington, D.C., today aimed at convincing President Obama to include Arctic lease sales in his final federal offshore drilling plan for 2017-22.
Sixteen Alaska organizations — including Native corporations, oil industry groups and unions — are joining forces with four national groups to counter claims by environmentalists that oil companies are no longer interested in Arctic energy development due to continued low crude prices.
"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," Jeff Eshelman, senior vice president for operations and public affairs at the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said in a statement.
"Today industry retains over 250 offshore lease sales in the Arctic and continues to invest millions of dollars into research into oil spill response and preparedness and other areas," he noted. Most U.S. Arctic leases are located in state-controlled waters.
The campaign maintains that Arctic drilling would help support Alaska's Native communities, bring jobs and investment to the state, and strengthen U.S. national security.
At issue is the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's proposal to allow leasing on federal lands in the Arctic, the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska's Cook Inlet during the next five-year planning period. BOEM's March draft plan included a lease sale in the Beaufort Sea in 2020 and in the Chukchi Sea in 2022.
If those lease sales are included in the final plan, which is due to be released later this year, future Interior Department officials could still choose to cancel the sales. But if the Arctic leases are dropped from the final version, they could not be offered during that five-year period without regulators first initiating another extensive rulemaking process.
Kara Moriarty, president and CEO of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, called on Obama to consider how Alaska would be affected by a decision to exclude Arctic drilling from his upcoming five-year plan.
"I can't stress this enough," Moriarty said in a statement. "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" due to the low price of oil.
The promotional campaign will include television, print and digital advertising. The coalition says it is running a "six-figure television buy" in the D.C. media market, as well as a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post.
The industry is flooding the D.C. media market at a time when environmental organizations have been increasing pressure on the White House to cut the Arctic leases. The opponents warn that drilling in Alaska's northern waters would cause irreversible harm to the Arctic environment, exacerbate climate change and damage Alaska's Native subsistence culture (EnergyWire, June 23).
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