Resource Development Council

RDC Letter:
HR 3407 - Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

January 30, 2012

Chairman Doc Hastings
Committee on Natural Resources
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Hastings:

The Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc. (RDC) is writing to express its support for HR 3407, which would open less than three percent of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to responsible oil and gas development.

RDC is an Alaskan business association comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska's oil and gas, mining, forest products, tourism, and fisheries industries. Our membership includes all of the Alaska Native Regional Corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC's purpose is to expand the state's economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

RDC is advocating for Alaska’s and our nation’s interests in urging Congress to open at least a small portion of the refuge to responsible oil and gas exploration and development, as was recommended by the Department of Interior over 20 years ago.

The 1002 area of ANWR was excluded from Wilderness designation in a compromise struck under the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). In exchange, Congress doubled the size of the refuge and designated eight million acres outside the 1002 area as Wilderness. In recognizing the 1002 area’s enormous oil and gas potential, Congress mandated a study of its petroleum resources, as well as its wildlife and environmental values. In 1987, the Department of the Interior concluded oil development would have minimal impact on wildlife and recommended the 1002 area be opened. In 1995, Congress voted to open the area to exploration, but President Clinton vetoed the measure.

This is an interesting time for debate on this legislation to be occurring, given chronically high unemployment and critical structural problems within the U.S. economy, including staggering government debt and an alarming trade deficit, largely a result of imported oil. What we need is more economic opportunities and increased domestic oil and gas production. Opening a portion of the 1002 area to responsible oil and gas development would be a big step in the right direction, providing a huge and lasting stimulus to the economy and billions of dollars in new revenues to the federal government – all with virtually no expense to government.

Oil development in the 1002 area would provide a safe and secure source of oil for our nation for decades. It would create tens of thousands of jobs throughout the country and refill the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), existing infrastructure that is currently operating at only one-third of its intended capacity.

The biggest threat to Alaska’s economy is the sharp ongoing decline in TAPS throughput, which has fallen from 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd) in 1988 to a current average of approximately 600,000 bpd. Four years ago, more than 734,000 bpd were flowing through the pipeline. Both President Obama and Alaska Governor Sean Parnell have stated that increasing TAPS throughput is a national priority and in the nation’s best interests.

How much of a difference could ANWR potentially make in stemming the North Slope production decline and increasing throughput in TAPS? The 1002 area of ANWR, which itself represents only eight percent of the refuge, contains approximately 10.4 billion barrels of oil. At peak production, it could supply the U.S. with up to 1.45 million barrels of oil per day, significantly reducing foreign imports and saving America tens of billions of dollar annually.

With advances in technology, it is possible to develop the 1002 area’s energy reserves without significant disturbance to wildlife. In fact, wildlife populations have grown or remained stable in other areas of the North Slope where oil development is already occurring. One example at Prudhoe Bay shows the Central Arctic caribou herd population has grown from 5,000 animals in 1970 to more then 66,000 animals today.

Alaskans statewide strongly support exploration and development in the 1002 area of ANWR. In fact, polling has consistently shown that more than 70 percent of Alaskans support development of energy resources beneath the 1002 area. In addition, the Alaska Federation of Natives, the North Slope Borough, and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation all support development. Local residents and the Inupiat people who actually live adjacent to the 1002 area also support development.

Section 1002 of ANILCA was created in the spirit of compromise by members of Congress. HR 3407 restores this compromise and follows through with the original intent of Congress when it passed the landmark Alaska lands legislation.

Additionally, HR 3407 is consistent with the intent of Congress with regard to statehood. Alaska became a state based on the congressional intent that through development of its natural resources it would be able to sustain its economy and not become a ward of the federal government. Early statehood bills failed, and ultimately it was the discovery of oil that convinced Congress Alaska could sustain itself as a state.

In conclusion, RDC strongly supports HR 3407. Opening a small portion of ANWR to responsible oil and gas development would create thousands of jobs, stimulate the economy, reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, and generate much-needed ongoing revenues to the federal government.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on HR 3407. Alaskans very much appreciate your leadership on this issue and your recognition of the key role ANWR should play in any meaningful national energy policy.

Resource Development Council for Alaska