All of Alaska’s elected officials had derided, bewailed and bemoaned the horrible wrongs done to Alaska by the Bureau of Ocean Management’s Five-Year Plan for Alaska’s arctic waters. Governor Walker wouldn’t even rule out secession. Joe Vogler lives on.
Now WC is on record objecting to oil and gas drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas as damnfoolishness. And WC has some pretty good evidence to support his thesis. Two words: Shell Oil. Two more words: Deepwater Horizon.
But let’s assume, just for a moment, that despite the lessons of reason and experience, you can safely drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, and that at some date in the future oil might be produced from wells on Alaska’s outer continental shelf. Exactly what is it that the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) has done that so badly damages Alaska that secession might be warranted?
BOEM issued a Draft Proposed Program (DPP) for leasing on sea floor on the United States’ Outer Continental Shelf for the five years 2017-2022. Basically, the DPP lays out what parts of the outer continental shelf ought to be leased and what parts ought not. The assessment is made with BOEM’s thumb firmly on the side of the scale proposing development. It’s a strongly pro-development document. So why are Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and Governor Walker squealing like stuck pigs? Did BOEM refuse to allow any Alaska waters to be explored?
Here’s the official draft maps. You’ll have to look carefully to find any excluded federal sea floor.
The areas along the coast are the three mile limit that defines Alaska waters where the state, not BOEM, generally manages leasing and exploration. The only excluded areas are two small whaling areas around Barrow and Kaktovik. BOEM did not exclude any other portion of the Beaufort Sea Program Area from consideration for leasing.
There’s a bit more area excluded from the Chukchi Sea Program Area.
In addition to the State’s three mile zone, BOEM proposes a 25-mile buffer along the coast, and a small subsistence deferral area north of Barrow. None of the areas where Shell Oil thinks the prospects are good – none of the areas where Shell had its Big Adventures in the last couple of years – are in either excluded area. In other words, BOEM was careful not to exclude the prospects that Big Oil thinks are hot.
What BOEM didn’t do, and why the conservation community is worried, is protect the Hanna Shoal Walrus Feeding Area or all of the Spectacled Eider Critical Habitat.
The 25-mile buffer is kind of a lame, half-hearted nod to the critically endangered Spectacled Eider habitat. BOEM didn’t make any concessions at all for the Hanna Shoal, the only place where there might be sea ice from which walrus could forage, the other off shore areas likely to have ice are too deep for diving. There may very well be a legal challenge from the conservation community over this issue.
This is what our elected officials are whining about? A draft proposed plan that gives the State 99% of what it wanted? This is the DPP that Senator Murkowski called a “punch in the gut”? We didn’t get all the candy we wanted, so we’re throwing a temper tantrum?
Sometimes WC is really embarrassed by the conduct of his elected officials. It’s sort of the normal state of affairs in Alaska. But this sets a new benchmark.
Because what we’re really talking about here is producing more megatons of CO2. Which is already gravely damaging Alaska, and will get worse if it isn’t stopped. The warming and acidification of the Arctic Ocean would be catastrophic for Alaska. It’s already a grave problem and each tenth of a degree of warming, each part per million increase in CO2, is making it worse.
So maybe the right metaphor isn’t the spoiled child, but rather the self-destructive jerk.
Shameful, either way.