Senate Republicans Push for Oil Drilling in the Alaskan Arctic
By admin October 26, 2017

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The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska is the largest wildlife refuge in the country, with a little over 19 million acres of land protected by the federal government. A portion named area 1002 is coastal land designated for petroleum reserves, but has not been touched since it was federally protected in 1980. After years of fighting between Democrats and Republicans over multiple administrations, conservatives passed a budget measure last week to open the land for energy companies. Opening the area to drilling will extract billions of dollars worth of oil for domestic energy companies and lead to billions in tax revenue for Alaska and the federal government, but Democrats and environmental activists argue one of the last untouched places on earth could be subject to irreversible harm.

The refuge was originally protected in 1960 under President Eisenhower and then expanded in 1980 under the Alaska National Interests Lands Conversation Act, which designated area 1002 for potential drilling that requires federal approval. Since 1980, energy companies have spent millions lobbying congress to open the land for petroleum extraction but consistently failed after strong pushback by Democrats and environmental groups.

A growing acceptance to begin drilling has been underwritten by decreasing Alaskan oil production and the development of new extraction technology. Alaskan oil production peaked in the 1980s with 2 million barrels per day and now that number is at 500,000. The state government is desperate for new sources of petroleum to sustain the sector, increase tax revenue, and keep the Trans-Alaskan pipeline operational, as low levels of oil could lead to frozen water and wax that harm the pipeline. Many proponents also argue that the technology used to search for oil reserves and extraction of the petroleum is significantly less harmful to the environment than even twenty years ago. By using directional drilling, companies could have a small footprint and extract oil from only a few wells. However, opponents argue that extracting oil with a minimal impact to nature is a severe falsehood, as any drilling could affect the migratory patterns of species, disrupt ecological systems through the creation of pipelines, and pollute the environment if a spill ever occurred.

Even though Senate Republicans won a victory in the energy subcommittee, the fight to open ANWR for private drilling will be a long process. The battle will now move to the House where Republicans will have to fight to pass a budget approval in their energy subcommittee, and if that is successful, the measures will have to make it into the final negotiated budget bill. Even if approval does pass Congress, it is likely environmental groups will file several lawsuits to slow down the entire process. On top of everything, it is unknown whether private companies will even want to bid on a contract, as energy companies will have to start from scratch in the area, spending millions on research and infrastructure before oil even leaves the ground.

Further Reading:

How ANWR Works

The Trump administration is aiming for Arctic oil and gas

Democrats fail to block Arctic reserve oil drilling

Thanks for sharing !

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