As the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee prepares to consider new legislation that would open a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to energy development, long-time players in the debate over Alaskan energy production are explaining why now is the time to unlock critical resources in the region. One of the most adamant voices in the debate has been, naturally, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who unveiled a bill opening up parts of ANWR that would present “a tremendous opportunity” for both Alaska and the federal government to the tune of $1.1 billion in federal funds, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
As this debate continues to unfold, here are four things to know about the importance of putting ANWR access back on the table:
1.ANWR’s 1002 Area was set aside for exploration
Consisting of a region of over 19 million acres of land, ANWR was designated to serve a dual purpose: while eight million acres are designated as wilderness lands, a very small segment titled the 1002 Area was expressly set aside for exploration. The proposed region is not designated as wilderness lands; the 1002 Area remains the largest conventional onshore prospect in all of North America.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 1002 Area contains a mean estimate of 10.4 billion barrels of oil. Opening the area will greatly benefit our nation’s economy: it will create thousands of new jobs, generate tens of billions of dollars in new revenues, and keep energy affordable, all while helping to protect our national security. The proposed 2000 acres for development amounts to less than 8% of all of ANWR’s 19.3 million acres.
2.ANWR will keep TAPS flowing for decades to come
The Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) is by all standards an American success story. For forty years TAPS has safely delivered over 17 billion barrels of oil to Alaska’s southern port of Valdez—delivering domestic oil which has powered the economies of America’s West, from Washington to California. With TAPS flowing at a two million barrels a day in the 1980’s, curtailing access to new oil now will prematurely shut down one of America’s critical energy lifelines. The 800 miles of pipeline, one of the longest in the world, needs oil to function properly.
3.There has always been strong local support for ANWR exploration
The vast majority of Alaskans, including many of the Native communities that live across the North Slope, support responsible development in ANWR. Recent polls consistently show over 70% of Alaskans support ANWR 1002 Area development. Also, the Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, who’s membership includes 20 of the 28 entities from across the North Slope including tribal councils, municipal governments and Alaska Native corporations, passed a resolution in support of ANWR development.
4.The environment and Alaska energy development has a proven record of success
Alaska has repeatedly proven that energy production can coexist with the protection of lands and wildlife. The surface footprint of energy development on Alaska’s North Slope has declined dramatically since the start of operations at Prudhoe Bay. A drilling pad that occupied 65 acres back in 1970 occupies just 12 acres today, which is a decline of more than 80 percent. And the area accessible from modern drill pads has grown from three square miles to 125 square miles—a dramatic increase of more than 4,000 percent.
Decades of safe development have merited a success story for which Alaskans are rightly proud, and which America has greatly prospered. The next chapter of opportunity for Alaska and America rests near the Coastal Plain of ANWR, and the U.S. Senate has an opportunity to make that opportunity clear over the next several weeks to the American people.