Testimony of Carl Portman, Deputy Director
January 19, 2010
To the Army Corps of Engineers:
The Resource Development Council (RDC) appreciates the opportunity to present brief comments on the Point Thomson Project Environmental Impact Statement.
RDC is a statewide organization made up of all resource sectors, business associations, labor unions, Native corporations, tourism providers, local governments and individuals. RDC’s purpose is to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.
RDC strongly supports the advancement of the Point Thomson project, which is essential to the success of the Alaska gas pipeline project – a major clean-energy priority of the Obama administration. Point Thomson contains an important component of gas volume to be moved by an Alaska gas pipeline and accounts for approximately 25 percent of known North Slope gas reserves.
We encourage the Corps in its development of the EIS to fully consider the importance of this project to the proposed gas pipeline, as well as its overall economic benefits to Alaska and the nation. Development of oil and gas resources at Point Thomson and other North Slope fields will help meet domestic energy and reduce dependence on foreign sources. In addition, this multi-billion, phased-approach project will provide hundreds of new jobs, additional tax revenues to local, state and federal governments and clean domestic energy to U.S. markets.
The project is designed to minimize environmental impacts, utilizing existing gravel pads, and access to the site is by ice roads. Moreover, much of Point Thomson’s gas resources are offshore, but these resources will be developed from onshore pads, minimizing any potential environmental impact.
With regard to polar bear critical habitat, we encourage the Corps to acknowledge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s findings that (1) the oil industry in Alaska has minimal impact on polar bears, (2) does not pose a threat to the survival or recovery of the species, and (3) is strictly regulated under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Moreover, with regard to polar bear denning habitat, it is plentiful, widely distributed and undisturbed on the Beaufort Sea coastal plain. It is highly unlikely that denning habitat will become a limiting factor for polar bears, even when all foreseeable development activity is taken into account. We certainly do not see any significant impact from the Point Thomson project on the various proposed critical habitats for polar bears. However, we raise this issue because it will certainly be used by those interests who do not support oil and gas development in Alaska’s arctic, whether it’s onshore or offshore.
RDC appreciates the opportunity to express its support for the Point Thomson project and urges the Corps to fully acknowledge the economic benefits of this project, as well as its importance to a successful Alaska gas pipeline project. We also encourage the Corps to acknowledge that this project will not pose a threat to polar bears or its habitat.