Alaskan government proposes new ANWR crude oil resource study

Alaska’s state government proposed that a new study of potential crude oil resources beneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain be conducted before the Obama administration decides whether to designate more of the refuge as wilderness and wild and scenic rivers.

The state has developed a proposal to study potential crude resources beneath ANWR’s 1002 area over 7 years using modern technology to more accurately measure what’s there as well as potential environmental impacts from its development, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell (R) said.

“I am prepared to ask for $50 million from Alaska’s legislature to supplement whatever the federal government can provide to complete this study,” he told a May 20 US Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century event, where the proposal was unveiled, by video teleconference from Alaska.

“Let’s work closely together,” Parnell urged. “Robust and up-to-date information is essential. Once we know what resources underlie the 1002 area, we will have a more informed discussion of ANWR by knowing the revenue it will produce for the US Treasury.”

He described the proposal in a May 18 letter to US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. DOI has no immediate comment, a spokeswoman told OGJ by e-mail.

“This idea was born out of a sense of frustration and responsibility,” said Daniel S. Sullivan, the state’s Natural Resources Commissioner, who attended the event in person with North Slope borough and Alaska Native leaders.

Federal refusal

“The frustration was the federal government’s refusal to look at or even contemplate the resources as it rolls out its ANWR management plan,” he explained. “The responsibility is to propose a serious, detailed, 187-page scientific document for the federal government to use the information—to bring experts and best technology and practices to the table.”

Sullivan predicted that resource estimates for ANWR’s coastal plain, once the program was completed, would be higher than the current 10.4 billion bbl mean estimate. He added that 3D seismic and exploration activity would take place only in the winter from ice roads and ice pads, and that congressional approval would not be necessary because no development would be involved.

“When we discuss this issue with the federal government, there’s a head-in-the-sand—or in this case, head-in-the-tundra—attitude that it doesn’t want to know this,” Sullivan said. “We would like to see a broad, bipartisan report that lets federal decision-makers and the general public understand the extent of the resources that are involved.”

Charlotte Brower, mayor of the North Slope Borough, and Rex Rock, president of the Arctic Slope Regional Corp., a regional Alaska Native corporation based in Barrow, also spoke at the event. Sullivan said they and other Alaskans will visit members of Congress and other policymakers to discuss the proposal.

“We want to change this debate on ANWR,” Sullivan said. “It’s very stale. It can be invigorated with fresh information that can help us reach an informed decision. The real question is why someone wouldn’t want to know what’s beneath ANWR’s 1002 area.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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