Testimony on SJR 7: Support for ANWR Leasing Program
Senate Resources Committee • February 25, 2019

Good afternoon. My name is Carl Portman, Deputy Director of the Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.  I am here today to speak in support of SJR 7, requesting implementation of an oil and gas leasing program on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

RDC has consistently supported opening the “1002 area” to oil and gas development. The coastal plain is considered America’s best onshore prospect for conventional oil and gas discoveries.

At recent public hearings in Anchorage and Washington D.C., RDC expressed strong support for the proposed oil and gas leasing program that would allow limited activity within the non-Wilderness portion of the coastal plain. BLM has made a good effort in a well-organized DEIS to be responsive to the Congressional Directive opening the 1002 Area to oil and gas leasing. 

Alaska depends on the responsible development of its natural resources to support its economy. In fact, it wasn’t until the discovery of oil that led Congress to finally vote in favor of Alaska’s statehood. Through the discovery of oil, Congress realized Alaska could have a healthy economy through development of its natural resources. 

Alaska’s North Slope has now produced more than 17 billion barrels of oil. Oil production has been the economic engine of growth in Alaska. Even though the Trans-Alaska Pipeline is running at one-quarter capacity, oil production generated $2.7 billion in state revenues in FY 2018, accounting for approximately 80 percent of unrestricted general fund revenues. Were oil production occurring today on the coastal plain, our economic lifeline could be operating at two-thirds capacity, sharply reducing and potentially eliminating Alaska’s budget deficit and helping sustain the public services Alaskans depend upon. 

The oil industry has demonstrated over the past 40 years that North Slope energy development and environmental stewardship can and do coexist. The industry has a proven track record of responsible development in sensitive areas, protecting the environment, wildlife, and subsistence needs of local residents.

Federal law requires the footprint of production and support facilities to be limited to no more than 2,000 surface acres of the 1.6 million-acre 1002 Area, which is the non-Wilderness portion of the refuge’s coastal plain. That is equivalent to just 0.01 percent of ANWR’s 19.3 million-acres. 

Responsible oil and gas development in the small fraction of the coastal plain proposed for leasing will help Alaska realize the benefits that come from energy production in the 1002 Area. In addition to the many public services funded across Alaska by oil revenues, North Slope production generates thousands of jobs for Alaskans. On the North Slope and elsewhere, the industry and the jobs it provides has generated an economy, raised the standard of living, and has significantly improved the quality of life. Jobs enable self-sufficiency, raises one’s confidence and self-esteem, and provides a means to support a family. The power of a job transforms lives and breaks the cycle of dependency. This is a major benefit of oil and gas development in Alaska with the 1002 Area being no exception. 

Yet there are special interests in our nation that are opposed to further development of America’s energy resources. They advocate leaving oil in the ground, but reality requires continued development of America’s oil and gas resources. New oil and gas production will be required to power America’s economy and can serve as a bridge to the renewable and green energy sources of the future. Moreover, every barrel of oil not developed in Alaska will simply be imported from overseas where the carbon footprint is larger.

In conclusion, RDC encourages the Senate Resources Committee to pass SJR 7. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.