Resource Development Council

RDC Comment Letter:
Proposed 2017-2022 OCS Oil & Gas Leasing Program

View Action Alert

March 2, 2015

Kelly Hammerle
Five Year Program Manager
BOEM (HM-3120)
381 Elden Street
Herndon, Virginia 20170

Geoffrey Wikel, Acting Chief
Division of Environmental Assessment Office,
Office of Environmental Program (HM-3107), BOEM
381 Elden Street
Herndon, VA 20170-4817

RE: Draft Proposed 2017-2022 OCS Oil & Gas Leasing Program and Notice of Intent to Prepare a PEIS

Dear Ms. Hammerle and Mr. Wikel:

In response to the request for comments regarding the Draft Proposed 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil & Gas Leasing Program (DPP) and the preparation of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, the Resource Development Council (RDC) urges the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to maintain all of the proposed leasing areas off Alaska in the final program and resist additional restrictions on leasing in the region. In January alone, the Department of Interior moved to forever block energy development on the coastal plain of ANWR, our greatest onshore energy prospect, and closed nearly 10 million acres of offshore areas to development, essentially putting off limits more than 10 billion barrels of oil.

RDC is a statewide, non-profit, membership-funded organization founded in 1975. The RDC membership is comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, timber, tourism, and fisheries industries, as well as Alaska Native corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC’s purpose is to link these diverse interests together to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

These federal actions come at a time when Alaskans are facing a multi-billion deficit due to low oil prices and low production. Throughput in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) peaked at 2.1 million barrels per day in 1988 and the pipeline is now running at three quarters empty. With its enormous resource potential, the Alaska OCS likely contains enough oil to at least double TAPS throughput, extend the longevity of the pipeline, and sustain our state’s economy for decades.

TAPS has played a critical role in our nation's energy security, carrying more than 17 billion barrels of oil to West-Coast markets. It is the economic lifeblood of Alaska’s economy and a critical link to the nation’s long-term energy security.

One cannot overstate the importance of oil and gas to Alaska. Oil production accounts for more than one-third of the economic activity in the state. It provides and funds thousands of private and public sector jobs, as well as critical public services.

It’s clear that Alaskans and our state’s economy would benefit significantly from increased oil production. In fact, the very concept of Alaska’s statehood is predicated on the development of our natural resources.

More than five decades ago when Alaska statehood was debated, many politicians in Washington, D.C. doubted this northern territory could build an economy and contribute to the union. Alaskans joined together to convince Congress that development of Alaska’s vast resources could establish and sustain a strong private sector economy. Washington responded by adding a 49th star to the American flag.

We remind federal policy makers that Alaska was allowed to join the union because of the expectation that the development of our natural resources would sustain our economy.

Now, more than 50 years later, our economic lifeline, TAPS, is starved for oil. It’s not because we have depleted our natural resources. In fact, there is more oil in place onshore and offshore the North Slope than what we have developed since statehood. The challenge is achieving access to the resource.

With America still importing more than a quarter of its oil, America needs Alaska oil. For the benefit of Alaskans and consumers across the country, we urge BOEM to continue to include Alaska leasing opportunities in the final plan.

It is vital that the United States maintain and accelerate opportunities to develop offshore oil and gas, particularly in the resource-rich Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. The region holds an estimated 23.6 billion barrels of oil and 104 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the development of which would create 54,700 jobs and $193 billion in government revenue. As the DDP notes, "the Arctic areas are especially promising to help meet the country's energy needs." Resource development in the U.S. Arctic would also significantly bolster the nation's influence in a strategically critical area.

In order to advance our energy and economic interests in the Arctic, the federal government must allow opportunities for both current and future lessees to explore and responsibly develop these resources.

Industry and regulators continue to adapt to the challenges of operating in the Arctic, and forthcoming regulations and technologies will further ensure that development and environmental protection can coexist in the Arctic. Operators have taken great strides to implement lessons learned and enhance prevention and response capabilities. Finally, through smart planning, Arctic offshore energy development and subsistence lifestyles can be compatible.

For the benefit of Alaskans as well as businesses and consumers across the country, RDC respectfully urges BOEM to continue to include Alaska leasing opportunities in the final plan. Reasonable regulation and advancing technologies ensure that development of these resources can proceed safely.

Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.