U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today chaired a hearing focused on the potential for oil and gas development in the non-wilderness portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), known as the “1002 Area” or Coastal Plain, to meet the $1 billion budget reconciliation instruction the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee received last week in H. Con. Res. 71. During the hearing, Sen. Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young, both R-Alaska, provided opening statements for committee members.
Murkowski opened the hearing by emphasizing that the 1002 Area is not federal wilderness, and separate from the wilderness in ANWR. In 1980, Congress specifically designated the 1002 Area for consideration for oil and gas exploration. Today, Alaskans are asking to develop just 2,000 federal acres within it – about one ten-thousandth of all of ANWR. Murkowski explained that limited, responsible development would generate new wealth and prosperity for Alaska and the nation, among many other substantial economic benefits.
“Opening the 1002 Area to responsible oil and gas development will create thousands of new jobs, and those jobs will pay the types of wages that support families and put our kids through college,” said Murkowski. “It will also generate tens of billions of dollars in revenues over the life of the fields for every level of government.”
Murkowski also explained how the environmental footprint of development on Alaska’s North Slope has shrunken dramatically since Prudhoe Bay began operations in the 1970s, and the stringent standards that Alaskans have put in place to protect local wildlife.
“The Central Arctic caribou herd, which lives year-round in and around Prudhoe Bay, is now more than seven times larger than when development began,” said Murkowski. “For over 40 years now, Alaskans have repeatedly proven that we can develop safely and responsibly, and development in the 1002 Area will be no different. We will not harm the caribou; or the polar bears, whose dens can be protected; or the snow geese, whose nesting areas can be safeguarded; or any of the other birds and wildlife that visit the Coastal Plain in the summer.”
Between the 1970s and today, the surface footprint of Arctic development decreased by about 80 percent. What was once a 65-acre pad now takes up 12 acres or less. Below ground, extended reach drilling from a single pad will grow to an area of 125 square miles by 2020—an increase of more than 4,000 percent from the 1970s.
Sullivan, Young, and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker provided opening statements about the economic and national security benefits of opening the 1002 Area to responsible development.
“Opening the small section of the 1002 area in ANWR for development will strengthen our national security,” said Sullivan, who has been a Marine for 24 years, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, and sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “When we don’t have to import energy from countries that don’t like us, or better yet, when we can export American energy to our allies like Japan and Korea, or even a country like China, this helps our national security and foreign policy.”
In a move that caught the attention of lawmakers and attendees, Young drew a dot on the tip of his nose to illustrate the size of surface impact in comparison to the greater ANWR area.
“You see anything different on my nose right now,” Young asked the panel. “I am Alaska. One tenth of one tenth percent is what we’re talking about in disturbance…This little dot on my nose – I weigh 225 lbs. – this little dot is what we’re talking about in surface impact in the 10-02 Area. That’s a potential for approximately – early estimates were 10 billion barrels – and now estimates are probably around 20 billion barrels of oil.”
“Using the Energy Information Administration’s projections for the price of oil and USGS’s resource estimate for ANWR, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates that oil production from federal lands in the 1002 Area will generate $175 billion dollars in royalty and tax revenues for Alaska over the potential 40-plus year life of the basin,” said Walker.
The committee also received testimony from a number of Alaskans who strongly support opening the 1002 Area: Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, State of Alaska; Richard Glenn, executive vice president for land and natural resources of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation; Matthew Rexford, tribal administrator of the Native Village of Kaktovik; and Aaron Schutt, president and CEO of Doyon, Ltd. Each highlighted the broad support of Alaskans.
“As Congress originally considered in ANCSA and ANILCA, it must be determined whether these economic benefits can be pursued in a safe manner that protects the wildlife of the Alaska North Slope. I believe the State’s longstanding success shows that it definitively can, and thus should be done,” said Mallott.
“The reality is that the survival of our region and the development of our communities today depend on continued exploration and production,” said Glenn. “Without this economic driver, our communities will need access to greater government subsidies and programs in order to be sustained.”
“As Iñupiat, we stand to be unarguably the most affected by oil and gas activity in the Arctic. Therefore, we have the greatest stake in seeing that any and all development keeps our land and subsistence resources safe,” said Rexford. “We know it can be done, because it’s being done.”
“The official environmental impact statement for ANWR development from the U.S. Department of the Interior, now three decades old, showed that ANWR’s total potential oil reserves could be developed while only affecting about 2,000 acres of the surface of the coastal plain,” said Schutt. “The technology available to oil and gas companies today supports that assessment. Development will not physically touch 99.99 percent of the refuge, and it would leave untouched all of the refuge’s current 7.16 million acres of formal wilderness.”
Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. An archived video and testimony from today’s hearing are available on the committee’s website. Click here to view Murkowski’s questions for the first panel of witnesses, and here for the second panel.