Obama’s OCS decision fails Natives, Alaskans
Major blow to Arctic communities and economies, and to the entire state of Alaska.
The announcement from the Obama administration on Friday cancelling Arctic offshore lease sales
in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas is a major blow to Arctic communities and economies, and to the
entire state of Alaska.
Arctic Iñupiat Offshore (AIO) and Native stakeholders directly inland from the previously proposed
lease sales have worked closely with the President, Interior Secretary and the Bureau of Ocean
Energy Management (BOEM) to communicate support for future Arctic OCS leasing, which would
provide for tremendous economic opportunities in a region in dire need of jobs, infrastructure and
Removing the Arctic from the 2017-2022 offshore leasing program signals that the President has
decided to ignore the voices of the local indigenous people, and that he values his perceived
environmental legacy above the future sustainability of Native people, communities and cultures.
As justification for reversing course, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell released a statement Friday
saying: “Given the unique and challenging Arctic environment and industry’s declining interest in
the area, forgoing lease sales in the Arctic is the right path forward.”
There is no question that Arctic development is challenging, but it has been made infinitely more
challenging during President Obama and Secretary Jewell’s tenure. By implementing significantly
more stringent requirements to an already world-class regulatory regime, the administration has
made the cost of doing business uneconomical for many in the industry.
In the U.S. Arctic, the amount of money needed to complete an OCS operation is often measured in
the billions of dollars and takes decades of time, with no guarantee of success. For any global
producer, this risk must be offset by government certainty and assurances that lease sales will not
be rescinded. Of course, Friday’s announcement demonstrates they can and will be rescinded
without proper consideration for industry or, more importantly, the future well-being of Native
“To craft policies that discourages future investment, and then cite reduced industry interest as a
result of these policies as a means of justification is disingenuous and an insult to the intelligence of
the Alaska Native community,” said AIO President Rex A. Rock Sr.
When weighing which waters to include in each five-year offshore leasing program, the government
is required to consider the goals of affected states and its indigenous people, the proximity of
energy markets and the interests of oil and gas producers in its decision. In each of these cases the
current administration seems to have ignored their responsibilities.
“Rather than choosing to partner with Alaska Natives and Alaska Native Corporations to improve
Arctic economic growth domestically, the President decided to remove OCS from the offshore
leasing program and return industry investment to foreign nations where environmental oversight
is far less robust,” said AIO Chairman Anthony E. Edwardsen. “This is entirely inconsistent with his
public statements regarding environmental stewardship.”
As the true stakeholders in the Arctic offshore debate, and the ones who will ultimately live with the
economic, social and environmental implications of decisions made regarding OCS development,
AIO and the Native communities and organizations we represent are profoundly disappointed in
the administration’s decision.
Arctic Iñupiat Offshore, LLC (AIO) was established in 2014 to promote sustainable economic
development within the Arctic Slope Region. Its primary focus includes creating alignment for
responsible development, and planning for the future of the Arctic Iñupiat when it comes to
development decisions that affect our region.
AIO members include: Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Atqasuk Corporation, Kaktovik
Iñupiat Corporation, Nunamiut Corporation, Olgoonik Corporation, Tikigaq Corporation and
Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation