Debate on opening the Arctic Plain to oil exploration (H.R. 39): the facts
March 11, 2003
3712 N. Broadway PMB 279
Chicago, IL 60613
Issue: The U.S. House Resources Committee holds a hearing on The Arctic Coastal Plain Domestic Energy Security Act (H.R. 39) Wednesday which would allow oil and gas leasing, development and exploration to begin on the coastal plain.
The bill would allow the Secretary of the Interior to "establish and implement a competitive oil and gas leasing program that will result in an environmentally sound program for the exploration, development and production of the oil and gas resources of the Coastal Plain."
Comment 1: USGS estimates that there are between 5.7 to 16 billion barrels of oil under the coastal plain‹an amount potentially equal to our oil imports from Iraq for 20 years or what we import from the Saudis for 30 years.
Comment 2: USGS biologists estimate a negligible effect on caribou if development is allowed in the plain. In fact, on the North Slope oil fields, the Porcupine caribou herd has increased fivefold since oil development began in the 1970s.
Comment 3: The Arctic plain is a treeless tundra where winter lasts nine months. It's dark there for 56 straight days. There are already villages, roads, house and military installations there so it is not a pristine wilderness.
Comment 4: ANWR totals 19.6 million acres, eight million are already designated Wilderness. Probably only a small portion of the coastal plain, approximately 2000 acres, would be used for oil development (one-hundredth of a percent of the entire 19 million acre area).
Comment 5: International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa told the National Center for Public Policy Research (in March 2002), "ANWR provides expanded energy resources and increased job opportunities for Teamster members and their families. We cannot understand how so-called friends of working families can stand in the way of responsible job creation like ANWR, which already has bipartisan support to pass on a straight up or down vote."
Comment 6: New jobs would be created by opening ANWR‹estimates by the unions are from 222,000 to 700,000. But regardless of the exact number of new jobs created, even 50,000 new jobs would be welcome in the present economy.
Comment 7: Alaska has healthy stocks of polar bears, around 2000. Only about 15 polar bear dens have been identified on the coastal plain over an eleven year period which is about one or two dens per year. Most of the denning occurs on the ice pack -- therefore development will not affect polar bears.
Comment 8: The U.S. currently imports over 55% of the crude oil we use daily. By 2025 it is estimated we will be importing 68% of our needs according to the latest Energy Information Administration projections.
Comment 9: Not all native Alaskans are against development. The Inupiats who live on the plain favor development. Al Adams, an Inupiat elder says, "We have carefully assessed the impact of oil development and we think it has been hugely beneficial to us. Our culture is alive and well."
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