Alaska Delegation Slams Decision to Strip Arctic Leases from New OCS Plan

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, and U.S. Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, today condemned the Obama administration’s decision to remove two Alaska lease sales – one each in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas – from its “Proposed Final Program” for Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) leasing for 2017-2022.

Eliminating the program’s Arctic sales will yield the weakest offshore development plan in American history and lock up vast resources that are needed to grow our economy, protect national security and keep energy affordable for American families and businesses.

“President Obama is well aware that the vast majority of Alaskans want OCS development, and I am infuriated that he has once again ignored our voices to side with the factions who oppose it,” Murkowski said. “We have shown that Arctic development is one of the best ways to create jobs, generate revenues, and refill the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Why the president is willing to send all of those benefits overseas is beyond explanation. And it is even more stunning that just one day after urging the new administration to stand up to Russia, he continues to cede leadership on Arctic energy production to them. I will do all that I can to counteract this shortsighted decision.” 

“With this action, the Obama Administration is once again capitulating to the demands of extreme environmental groups over Alaskans and their fellow Americans who want good-paying jobs, energy independence and a strong economy,” Sullivan said. “For nearly eight years this Administration has given lip service to an ‘all of the above energy strategy,’ when their actions say the opposite. As Alaska’s Attorney General, Commissioner for the Department of Natural Resources, and U.S. Senator, I’ve fought this Administration every step of the way in their concerted efforts to lock up Alaska’s resources and turn our state into one giant national park. We will work hard to reverse the latest damage the Obama Administration has done to our citizens, economy and future. Let’s hope that this is the final chapter in the Obama Administration’s harmful legacy of putting the interests of anti-energy activists over those of hard-working Alaskans and their families. Our state and country still have a promising future in responsible resource development. I am hopeful that with the incoming Trump Administration we will be able to reach our potential as a state and nation in this important area.”

“For years, the Obama Administration has tried to convince the American people that it supports an “all-of-the-above” energy policy. Yet, it has consistently delivered crippling blows to the Alaskan people in the form of new regulatory obstacles, insurmountable roadblocks, and overly prescriptive regulations – making in nearly impossible for new development to occur,” Young said. “Today’s announcement – politically driven and meant to appease the nation’s most extreme environmental groups – represents some of the worst decision making we’ve seen over the last eight years. I truly wish I could say I was surprised, but this administration has never been serious about Arctic OCS development. With the writing on the wall, we’ve taken numerous steps in Congress to enhance Arctic lease sales – going as far as passing an amendment to the House Interior Appropriations bill that would have prevented this lease removal from taking place. Make no mistake, this blatant disregard for Alaska’s social and economic future will be overturned. The Obama Administration has simply added one more obstacle to the list.”

Alaska’s offshore areas contain prolific energy resources. According to Interior’s own technical analysts, the Beaufort and Chukchi seas form one of the most prospective basins in the world. Together, these areas are projected to hold 23.6 billion barrels of oil and 104.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. For perspective, that is enough to meet all of California’s demands for oil and natural gas for 37.5 years and 43.5 years, respectively.

According to a 2011 analysis by the firm Northern Economics, development of the resources in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas would create an annual average of 55,000 jobs over a 50-year period. Those jobs would create a total payroll of $145 billion over that span. Development is also projected to generate a total of $193 billion for local, state and federal treasuries. According to a 2014 poll, some 73 percent of Alaskans support Arctic OCS development. 

While calling out the previous, draft offshore leasing plan as a bare minimum effort, the congressional delegation repeatedly urged the Obama administration to keep both Arctic lease sales in its final program. For example, in May, Chairman Murkowski led a delegation letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and chaired an oversight hearing of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on this issue. 

The Alaska delegation is now reviewing the Proposed Final Program and will determine what actions can be taken to ensure that Alaska’s federal waters are part of a more robust and economically beneficial offshore program during the next administration.

Related Issues: Arctic, Energy