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Arctic Energy Center Weekly Roundup January 20-27, 2017

Poll shows strong Alaskan support for Arctic offshore oil and gas development



This Week on AEC

In the News

Infographic: Poll shows strong Alaskan support for Arctic offshore oil and gas development
. Penn Energy. The Arctic Energy Center released a new infographic illustrating the results of a poll that found that 76 percent of Alaskans, and 72 percent of Alaska Natives, support offshore oil and gas development in the Arctic. Other findings of the poll, which surveyed Alaskan residents exclusively, include: 66 percent believe that the opinion of local residents should matter most when considering Arctic oil and gas leasing; 68 percent support Arctic oil and gas leasing because of its importance to the economy; 64 percent believe banning Arctic offshore leasing is federal overreach; 67 percent support American Arctic energy development in order to prevent Russia from taking control of the region.
Here’s What Russia’s Military Build-Up in the Arctic Looks Like. Foreign Policy. Increasingly, U.S. officials have come to see that the opening Arctic is becoming more and more important — “strategic,” even, as they often say in Washington. But it always seems to slip through the bureaucratic cracks of the U.S. foreign and defense policymaking machine. With Arctic sea ice receding thanks to scorching temperatures, a once-closed ocean is now open for business (and, potentially, mischief) part of the year. Russia is taking advantage of the thaw to ramp up its military footprint in the region. Now, lawmakers and outgoing defense officials are hoping the United States under Donald Trump can finally get into the game at the top of the world. The Arctic has long taken a backseat to other regions, particularly for the Pentagon, according to Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). “What has been our national security strategy in the Arctic? Well I think until recently, from the U.S. perspective, from the [Pentagon] perspective, it really hasn’t existed,” he said, speaking at a Center for Strategic International Studies event on Tuesday. It’s an open-ended question. In his first days in office, Trump hasn’t indicated what his Arctic policies would entail. And with everything on his plate — from China to the Islamic State to “alternative facts” on the size of his inauguration crowd  — he may not for some time. But if Trump’s would-be rapprochement with Russia goes south, things might first start getting hot up north.
Legislature takes 11th swing at pro-drilling ANWR resolution. Juneau Empire. For the 11th time since 1995, the Alaska Legislature is preparing to urge the U.S. Congress to allow oil and gas drilling on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. On Tuesday morning, Rep. Dean Westlake, D-Kotzebue and chairman of the Alaska House’s Arctic committee, introduced House Joint Resolution 5, which asks Congress to allow ANWR drilling. Westlake represents House District 40, which covers the North Slope — including ANWR. “My people want to work. They absolutely want to work. I wouldn’t be offering that resolution if I didn’t think development … could be done in an environmentally responsible way,” Westlake said during the hearing. While the ANWR resolution is primarily a ceremonial protest, this year’s move has a different flavor. President Donald Trump has proven himself an insurgent on many issues, and Republicans have majorities in both the House and Senate. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is chairwoman of the powerful Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Those tributaries could flow into a river surging toward ANWR drilling. While Arctic drilling might be a divisive issue elsewhere, it isn’t in Alaska: Each resolution has passed by wide margins, and this year’s is expected to be no different.
Adm. Robert Papp steps down as top Arctic diplomat. Alaska Dispatch News. Retired U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Robert Papp has stepped down from his State Department post as U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic and joined a shipbuilding company as its Washington, D.C., lobbyist. Papp, who had served as a Coast Guard officer for nearly 40 years, stepped down as the agency's top official — commandant — in 2014. In a statement issued earlier this month, Eastern Shipbuilding Group Inc. of Panama City, Florida, named Papp as its first permanent official in D.C. The company is a major contractor with the Coast Guard and is set to design and build nine new patrol cutters under a contract that could exceed $10 billion for 25 cutters.

Weekly Voices

Trump can easily undo Obama’s Arctic Drilling Bans. (Op-ed by Jack Anderson – Energy Consultant) Global Risk Insights. The incoming Trump administration has the authority to revoke environmental protections of Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, which were enacted by President Obama in December and widely described in the media as “permanent bans” on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. Environmental activists praised the Obama administration for its actions, proclaiming that these bans are irreversible and will protect the Arctic from worsening climate change. In reality, the protections are indefinite (not permanent) and they are most definitely reversible. With a pro-fossil fuels administration coming together, oil and gas leases will likely be reauthorized at some point in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas during the next administration. With pro-oil officials like Rick Perry and Ryan Zinke set to lead the Energy and Interior Departments, the petroleum industry can expect to return to the Arctic eventually. Federal offshore leases are conducted in five-year increments, the next being 2017 to 2022. While the Obama administration has already laid out the available leases, it would be possible for the Trump administration to scrap that plan and have the Interior Department create a new one. It may well be time consuming, but the Republican-dominated government has a bone to pick with the bureaucracy and would likely attempt to push these changes through as fast as possible. Alternatively, the administration could set an expiration date closer to 2022, giving the industry a roadmap to drilling and the time to plan accordingly.
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