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ACTION ALERT: OCS Public Hearings Tonight and Friday

Overview:
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will hold a series of public hearings in early December to provide an opportunity for Alaskans to comment on the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the Proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017. The Alaska hearings will gauge public opinion on the development of offshore oil and gas resources. These hearings are important and could well determine Alaska’s economic course for decades to come. Economic studies have confirmed OCS development has the potential to sustain Alaska's economy for generations.

The proposed five-year program includes 15 lease sales in six offshore areas. In Alaska, those areas include a Beaufort Sea sale in 2015, a Chukchi Sea sale in 2016, and a special interest Cook Inlet sale in 2013. The Department of the Interior said the proposed lease sales take into account lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon incident and are “an important step…toward safely expanding oil and gas production on the OCS.” The plan defers from leasing areas where there are subsistence uses and sensitive environmental issues. Specifically, subsistence whaling areas near Barrow and Kaktovik will be excluded from leasing, the same areas that were deferred in the 2007-2012 program. In the Chukchi, there will be at least a 25-mile near-shore buffer area excluded from leasing. Additional deferral areas may be added to the design of individual lease sales.

Action requested:
Alaska Chamber encourages its members to attend the Anchorage and Fairbanks hearings. Environmental groups are planning large rallies one hour in advance of both hearings and have instructed their members to oppose all lease sales. One recent environmental group alert begins with: “Step aside, Wall Street: The biggest giveaway yet is planned for the oil industry. President Obama is proposing to open vast areas of pristine water in the Arctic Ocean to risky offshore drilling. Oil companies like Shell will make billions, and the public and wildlife will shoulder the costs.”

Please do not allow non-development activists to speak on your behalf. In addition to attending the hearings, you may submit written comments on the Draft PEIS until January 9, 2012.  Even if you provide written comments, please present brief oral testimony (three-minute limit) at the Anchorage and Fairbanks hearings. Your attendance is vital!

For those who do not have the time to draft their own comments, feel free to use the sample text at the link below:
http://consumerenergyalliance.org/calls-to-action/tell-the-obama-administration-that-we-need-jobs-and-thoughtful-access-to-offshore-resources/

Public Hearings:
Fairbanks, Thursday, December 8, 7-10 p.m., Westmark Hotel, 813 Noble Street
Anchorage, Friday, December 9, 7-10 p.m., Wilda Marston Theatre, Loussac Library, 3600 Denali Street
Other hearings are scheduled across the North Slope, including: Wainwright, Dec. 5; Nuiqsut, Dec. 6; Kaktovik, Dec. 7; Kotzebue, Dec. 12; Point Hope, Dec. 13; Point Lay, Dec. 14; and Barrow, Dec. 16.

Deadline for Comment is January 9, 2012

Submit comments to:
Online Submittal:
http://ocs5yeareis.anl.gov/involve/comments/index.cfm

Mail:
J.F. Bennett, Chief Division of Environmental Assessment
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
381 Elden Street, Mail Stop 4042
Herndon, VA 20170-4817

Points to consider in your comments:

  • The Proposed 2012-2017 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program must move forward in an efficient manner. The new leasing program must not further exclude areas offshore Alaska from responsible oil and gas development.
  • While the BOEM has allowed additional lease sales in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas near the end of the proposed five-year program, there is concern that operators may be discouraged from future investment, given the significant delays that current lessees have undergone in their attempts to explore Arctic waters. BOEM must first proactively support exploration of current leases and then take deliberate steps to ensure future lease holders can develop their leases in a timely manner and with certainty in the permitting process.
  • In establishing a robust leasing program, BOEM should move forward in a manner that encourages new investment in offshore development – an investment that will create new jobs, generate billions of dollars in economic activity, and allow for the delivery of much-needed energy to American consumers.
  • The Alaska OCS constitutes one of the world’s largest untapped energy resources with an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in place. By comparison, total production from the North Slope since 1977 has been approximately 15.5 billion barrels. Essentially, Alaska holds the eighth largest oil reserves in the world ahead of Nigeria, Libya, Russia and Norway.
  • The Chukchi Sea is considered the nation’s most prolific, unexplored offshore basin in North America.
  • The Alaska OCS could produce one to two million barrels per day, boosting current U.S. production by 20 to 40 percent. At today’s oil prices, slashing imports that much would reduce the nation’s trade deficit up to $65.7 billion a year. Last year, when oil averaged $78 a barrel, the U.S. sent $260 billion overseas for crude, accounting for nearly half of the country’s $500 billion trade deficit.
  • The responsible development of potentially immense oil and gas deposits in the Arctic would significantly boost Alaska’s economy, extend the life of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, improve the economic viability of the proposed natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Lower 48, reduce America’s reliance on foreign energy, create tens of thousands of new jobs and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal, state, and local government revenues.
  • According to a new study by Northern Economics and the University of Alaska, an annual average of 54,700 new jobs would be created and sustained through the year 2057 from the Alaska OCS, with 68,600 during production and 91,500 at peak employment. A total of $145 billion in new payroll would be paid to employees through the year 2057, including $63 billion to employees in Alaska and $82 billion to employees in the rest of the U.S.
  • A total of $193 billion in government revenue would be generated through the year 2057 if oil averages $65 a barrel, with $167 billion to the Federal government, $15 billion to the State of Alaska, $4 billion to local Alaska governments, and $6.5 billion to other state governments. Government revenue would be much higher with higher oil prices.
  • In the Arctic, industry has invested significant resources to develop comprehensive response plans in the event of an oil spill. In Alaska, Shell currently maintains a highly specialized fleet and specialized containment equipment, as well as a large workforce of highly trained people.
  • Deepwater wells are far more technically complex than the shallow-water, low-pressure conditions in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. This provides a greater margin of safety in Alaska. Even so, robust well control and oil spill prevention systems have been enhanced with learnings from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.
  • There has never been a blowout in the Alaska OCS or the Canadian Arctic. Thirty wells have been drilled in the Beaufort and five in the Chukchi – all without incident. These wells were drilled in the 1980s, utilizing older technology.
  • The North Slope and the offshore are now perhaps the most studied energy basins in America. The federal government has spent more than $300 million on studies in Alaska and in the past decade the agency has funded over 250 studies here, with the majority of those focused on the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
  • Access to Alaska’s OCS resources may be a key element in the economic feasibility of the proposed natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Lower 48, one of President Obama’s top energy priorities. Additional gas reserves beyond those already discovered are needed to make the project economic.
  • For every barrel of oil America refuses to develop domestically, it will have little choice but to import an equal amount from overseas – where different environmental standards often apply.
  • Sharing federal royalty payments from production in federal waters with coastal states and local communities is critical, as it significantly benefits local governments, promotes national economic interests and generates additional, new federal revenues by increasing state and local participation. Such sharing facilitates a closer partnership among federal, state and local agencies.
  • While we strive to develop renewable sources of energy, we will still rely on oil and natural gas for transportation, electricity, manufacturing, consumer goods and other uses that are part of our everyday lives. Even more, our economy depends on the millions of jobs and billions in revenues offshore production generates.


Deadline for Comment is January 9, 2012

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