AR-News: (US) Environmentalists Blast Alaska Oil Plan
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Sat Nov 22 13:38:11 EST 2003
Environmentalists Blast Alaska Oil Plan
By RACHEL D'ORO
.c The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A Bush administration plan to open almost 9 million
acres to oil and gas development in Alaska is ill-conceived and misleading,
threatening sensitive havens for migratory birds and other wildlife,
``It's never enough for the Bush administration,'' Cindy Shogan, executive
director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said Friday. ``They won't be happy
until every acre in America's arctic is a wasteland filled with oil, pipelines
The Interior Department's oil and gas leasing plan targets 8.8 million acres
at the northwest corner of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in the North
Officials with the agency's Bureau of Land Management said restrictions would
``protect water quality, vegetation, wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat,
subsistence uses and scenic/recreational values.''
State and oil industry officials hailed the plan to expand development of the
22.5-million acre reserve. A final decision is expected in late December.
``It fits in with what the governor would like to do, develop our oil and gas
resources,'' said John Manly, a spokesman for Gov. Frank Murkowski. ``The
administration is pleased that the BLM is moving forward with this program. After
all, it is a petroleum reserve.''
But critics said the plan ignores dozens of scientists and thousands of
others who during a public comment period urged a balance between development and
conservation of untouched wilderness.
Much of the northeastern section already is open to oil and gas exploration,
but under tight restrictions with some areas fenced off.
The entire reserve is believed to contain between 6 billion and 13 billion
barrels of oil. But the oil is spread over a wide area and would be costly to
recover, said Chuck Clusen, director of the Alaska lands project for the Natural
Resources Defense Council.
``The U.S. has only 3 percent of the world oil reserves. There's no way we
can drill our way to independence,'' Clusen said. ``We need to wean ourselves
off oil, not destroy our natural heritage.''
The plan calls for deferred leasing on about 1.5 million acres near the
Inupiat Eskimo village of Wainwright for a decade to see if more environmental
studies are needed. It also designates study areas for caribou and birds, and
protects another 1.5 million acres along the coast and some lakes and rivers.
Such measures are misleading, environmentalists claimed.
``They are opening this area 100 percent,'' said Eleanor Huffines, Alaska
regional director for The Wilderness Society. ``The deferrals are just temporary.
It's a matter of time.''
In Wainwright, many of the 550 residents have mixed feelings about the issue,
said Lucille Mayer, who has lived in the coastal village most of her 47 years.
While exploration could create jobs, locals worry about the impact on areas
where they hunt for caribou, walrus, whales, fish and geese. The region also is
rich in berries and medicinal plants.
``One of our biggest fears is losing our traditional subsistence hunting and
gathering areas,'' Mayer said.
There's no reason development and subsistence can't co-exist, said Mark
Hanley, a spokesman for Anadarko Petroleum Corp., a ConocoPhillips partner in
exploration and potential development on the eastern section of the reserve.
``Eliminating subsistence activities is not the goal,'' Hanley said.
11/22/03 03:13 EST
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news
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