Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Drilling for Oil must go on--

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been a proponent of offshore drilling for oil and natural gas for many reasons while we collectively (both private industry and government) continue to invest in  alternative sources of energy.  The main reason is that our country runs on oil. Period. No, make that an exclamation mark. We continue to fund rogue governments and to create political instability by enriching nations that do not like the USA--when buying their oil. Anything we can do to stop or reduce our dependence on imported oil should be a high priority of this administration, future administrations, and every state where there are proven oil reserves.

Environmentally speaking, this stance is very unpopular right now given the absolute unfolding disaster on the Gulf Coast, which is near and dear to all of our hearts here in the SouthEastern USA. How incredible that the Horizon well blew out on April 20th, 2010, Earth Day. How amazing that that just 3 weeks previous to the Horizon disaster, President Obama actually increased permissable oil drilling off our shores. Is that not just absolutely incredible ? Does the USA just not have any luck when it comes to becoming energy independent? How long will the Gulf Coast disaster impede drilling? Will the oil slick ruin tourism, the seafood industry, and destroy estuaries? All of us sincerely hope not for many reasons on many different levels.

I call to your attention an article written and posted by the Governor of Alaska, home of the 1989 Valdez accident. His state wants to do more drilling and to do more for our energy independence. This article is very important in that it shows how resilient we are in this country and how this too shall pass in the Gulf. Not to take away from the fact that this is a major environmental disaster in the making and I am very disturbed for the people on the Gulf Coast, and for me, a homeowner on the Gulf Coast.  But we knew the risks. We knew there could be a disaster. Now we have to deal with it. But drilling for oil must continue. Please read this article posted in the Wall Street Journal:

The Gulf Spill and Alaska

We see signs that the Obama administration wants to use the disaster to shut down oil production even in the safest areas.

Juneau, Alaska
In Alaska we empathize with residents of the Gulf states who are watching with trepidation as the potentially catastrophic oil spill continues unchecked. This tragedy reminds us of the fallout, both financial and environmental, that we still feel here from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. State and federal studies still find lingering subsurface oil, for example, and the herring fishery has yet to fully rebound. But just as Alaskans did not abandon our belief in responsible petroleum exploration and development after that disaster, Americans cannot afford to take their eyes off the ball now.

As I noted in these pages last year, responsible offshore oil and gas production, particularly off Alaska's coast, has to be a critical component of our long-term energy security strategy—and so too does responsible onshore domestic production. Yet there are troubling signs that the Obama administration is attempting to stifle—particularly in my state—the critical onshore component of America's ability to produce its own energy.
The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) holds up to 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil. While this area was set aside by Congress in 1980 for later consideration of whether to permit oil and gas production there, a federal agency is now undertaking a "review" of the management plan of the refuge—a review that seems aimed at laying the groundwork for a wilderness designation that would bar production.
But it is not only ANWR that the Obama administration seems intent on locking up. Federal agencies are also now blocking oil development in the National Petroleum Reserve—Alaska.

Although familiar with ANWR, most Americans are less likely to know about NPR-A and how vital it is to our energy security. Given recent developments, it's time to elevate the position this area holds in our national discourse.
NPR-A, a 23 million acre stretch of Alaska's North Slope, was set aside by President Warren Harding in 1923 for the specific purpose of supplying our country and military with oil and gas. Since 1976 it has been administered by the Department of the Interior, and since 1980 it has been theoretically open for development. The most recent estimates indicate that it holds 12 billion barrels of oil and 73 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
In addition to containing enormous hydrocarbons, NPR-A is very close to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which means that there would be relatively little additional infrastructure needed to bring this new oil to our domestic market.
But even here, progress has been stalled.
For more than five years, the state of Alaska has worked closely with major energy companies, local communities and Alaska Native corporations and tribes on a balanced development plan. To back this project, these entities have formed a rare coalition and made significant compromises, often at the behest of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to clear regulatory hurdles for development on a site in NPR-A known as CD-5.
But this February the Corps reversed course and denied the issuance of a critical permit for CD-5. Specifically, the Corps denied ConocoPhillips's request to build a bridge over a river to accommodate a pipeline and vehicles that can access the company's existing production facilities at the nearby Alpine field. The Corps decreed that the bridge shouldn't be built and that the pipeline should proceed under water, a course of action that would significantly undermine the economics of the project while posing a greater risk to the environment.

Alaska stands ready to help move the nation closer to energy independence, and it's a shame that the federal government is standing in the way. The Corps's own regulations emphasize that state and local governments have primary responsibility for land-use decisions and that their views should be given due consideration. But not only has the Corps rejected a critical permit, it did so without consideration of our concerns—on the overly technical grounds that the state's comments were not made under my signature and that my oral comments to Corps officials were not in writing.

After years of cooperatively trying to move this critical NPR-A project forward, such a backhanded dismissal of a state's position is troubling enough. But what we really fear is that this is part of a much broader agenda at play (directed by the antidevelopment Environmental Protection Agency) to shut down increased domestic oil and gas production even in places like the NPR-A. As Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski stated in a recent address to our legislature, "For heaven's sakes, if we can't drill in the National Petroleum Reserve—an area specifically designated by Congress for oil and gas production—where can we drill?"

The state of Alaska is seeking to join an administrative appeal of this misguided federal decision. If we are not satisfied with the outcome of this proceeding, we will pursue other means, including suing the federal government to ensure that it abides by its own regulations and does not make arbitrary and capricious decisions at the expense of state sovereignty and wise energy policy.
America, particularly in Alaska, has vast reserves of onshore and offshore oil and gas. The crisis in the Gulf should not be used to implement a misguided strategy that shuts down the opportunities to develop these resources and that further endangers our nation's long-term energy security.
Mr. Parnell, a Republican, is governor of Alaska.