October 31, 2017

U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Chairwoman, Senator Lisa Murkowski
804 Dirksen Senate Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Re: For the Record of November 2, 2017 Hearing

Dear Chairwoman Murkowski, Ranking Member Cantwell, and Members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee:

The Resource Development Council (RDC) is writing to express its strong support for the proposed measure that would allow limited oil and gas activity within the non-wilderness coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). 

RDC is an Alaska non-profit business association comprised of individuals and companies from state’s oil and gas, mining, forest products, fisheries and tourism industries.  RDC’s membership also includes Alaska Native corporations, local communities, organized labor and industry-support firms.  RDC’s purpose is to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

Alaskans statewide strongly support oil and gas exploration and development in the non-wilderness coastal plain.  In fact, polling has consistently shown more than 70 percent of Alaskans support development of energy resources beneath the 1002 area. Local residents and the Inupiat people who actually live adjacent to the 1002 area also support development.  

RDC is advocating for Alaska’s and, indeed, our nation’s interests in supporting the opening of a tiny fraction of the coastal plain to responsible oil and gas exploration and development. In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act expanded the refuge, but in a compromise set aside 1.5 million acres of the coastal plain for potential drilling. The provision before the Committee today would allow development of only 2,000 acres of the coastal plain, which itself represents a very small portion of the 19-million acre refuge.  

With advances in technology, it is possible to develop the coastal plain’s energy reserves while directly utilizing on a tiny fraction of the area. Moreover, such development can be accomplished without significant disturbance to wildlife. In fact, over the past 40 years of North Slope oil production, wildlife populations have grown or remained stable.  One example at Prudhoe Bay shows the central arctic caribou population has grown from 5,000 animals in 1970 to more than 66,000 animals today.  

Oil development in the 1002 area would provide a safe and secure source of oil for the nation for decades.  It would create tens of thousands of jobs throughout the country and refill the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), existing critical energy infrastructure that is currently operating at only one-fourth capacity. Since the ANWR coastal plain is only several miles from existing North Slope energy infrastructure and less than 60 miles from TAPS, development of energy reserves there would be one of the most environmentally-sound ways to increase oil production in Alaska.

Despite robust oil production in the Lower 48 states today, America will require new supplies of energy from Alaska in the coming decades. Energy production from ANWR will be key to offsetting a projected decline in Lower 48 shale oil production, which is expected to occur in the next decade. Otherwise, America will be forced to once again increase its reliance on foreign oil. With new oil and gas production from ANWR, America can continue to grow its economy and further reduce dependence on foreign imports. 

With regard to renewable energy, RDC acknowledges that wind, solar, and other alternative forms of energy are a growing part of America’s energy portfolio. While RDC fully supports renewable energy, we also recognize that new oil and gas production will be required to power America’s economy and security needs for decades into the future. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates renewable energy will still account for a minority of America’s energy production in 2040. New oil and gas production can serve as a bridge until renewables are established as a dominant energy source well into the future. 

It is important to recognize that limited oil and gas exploration and development on the coastal plain of ANWR is consistent with the intent of Congress with regard to Alaska 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 opening a limited area of the coastal plain of ANWR to oil and gas exploration and development. Such action 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. Moreover, responsible energy development on the North Slope can and does coexist with the environment, wildlife, and subsistence needs of local residents.

Sincerely,
Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.