Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Alaska & Arctic Oil Drilling: moves of protest within government

While many conservation groups bemoaned the recent U.S. administration's announcement of oil drilling, all is not lost. The proposed strategy, which included areas in Alaska and the Arctic, has led many to either believe that President Obama is back-tracking on campaign promises or that (as I believe) he is compromising in an attempt to gain bipartisan support for future climate and energy legislation.

However, while conservation groups are initiating email and letter write-in campaigns to voice their protest, there are significant wheels in government that are turning that could also make a difference. Here is an excerpt from an article from Los Angeles Times writer Kim Murphy about various actions which we should be watching:

What's next for oil in the Alaskan Arctic?

"Just because the Obama administration has finally settled on its strategy for offshore oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf, don't think the issue of what happens in the Alaskan Arctic is settled -- far from it.

Already, lots of new developments are underway. New briefs have been filed in the attempt to stop Shell Offshore Inc.'s plan to drill exploration wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas; a new Government Accountability Office report criticizes the Minerals Management Agency in Alaska for how it conducts its environmental reviews; and now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is turning attention back to the classic battleground over Arctic oil, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The agency announced it is beginning its first update in more than two decades of the conservation plan for the 19.2-million-acre refuge that lies west of the Prudhoe Bay oilfields on Alaska's North Slope -- home to grizzly bears, moose, wolverines, Dall sheep, birds, a massive herd of caribou and, if you're feeling optimistic, as much as 10.4 billion barrels of oil.

About 8 million acres of the refuge already are protected as wilderness. The new study could recommend additional areas for wilderness protection (read: no oil drilling, ever) including, conceivably, the so-called 1002 area of the coastal plain designated by Congress to study for possible oil development.

'There are no avenues of discussion closed off to the public,' Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Bruce Woods said."

Read the entire article to learn who, within government, is supporting the protection of the Alaskan/Arctic wilderness and what is going on behind the headlines.

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