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Having it both ways when the message is 'no way'

Posted: February 22, 2013 - 1:00am

The White House makes bold statements about the need for an energy-independent America. Actions speak louder than words. The actions taken by the Obama Administration in Alaska regarding National Petroleum Reserve management say plenty.

The administration is obstructionist, setting up goals that make it seem the powers that be are working with Alaska and in America’s best interests, but the rules seem to always limit progress and there are no guarantees.

The new plan for the 23-million-acre petroleum reserve splits the land between oil production and conservation areas — 11.8 million acres are open to potential harvesting of an estimated 549 million barrels of oil and 8.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The Department of the Interior allowed for pipeline construction in the NPR-A under this plan — but included no guarantees that oil producers can build a pipeline in a reasonable amount of time on a reasonable route without being buried in an avalanche of litigation by environmentalists.

We have to agree with U.S. Rep. Don Young’s assessment: “The Department of Interior has once again caved to environmental special interest groups, and unfortunately today’s finalized plan will do nothing but further restrict potential oil and gas development in a petroleum reserve established to ensure America’s energy security.”

Environmentalists are also not happy, as they wanted even more restrictions.

The Administration calls disappointing all parties a balanced approach. The plan leaves open three-fourths of the land containing recoverable oil and half of the area containing recoverable natural gas.

We need some guarantees that those who need to pipe out oil from offshore rigs can build a pipeline without getting bushwhacked into spending years in court. Oil producers that wish to bring up oil from beneath the Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas need to get that product to the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline, and Alaska needs to increase the flow of oil in that pipeline. This is as much for Alaska’s vital economic interests as it is for the health of the pipeline infrastructure, which needs a certain amount of oil in it to work properly.

It comes down to what seems to be the overwhelming opinion among those in D.C.’s power elite that our state is, or should be, one big park. From afar, many still see Alaska as a resource colony.

This state holds a vast wealth of precious minerals, rare metals, oil and natural gas. The federal government owns huge swaths of Alaska, and the NPR-A was rightfully put aside as a petroleum reserve, not a nature preserve.

We recognize the need to develop alternative forms of energy, just as we see the mandate to protect wildlife and subsistence use of those lands, but we also see a great short-term need for domestic oil production and the harvesting of rare earth materials we someday may not be able to buy in an increasingly hostile and competitive world.

Alaska has more to offer the American economy than summer fishing trips and cruises.

We wish the Obama Administration would treat Alaska as a partner in providing for part of America’s energy security instead of its apparent view that we are some kind of polar bear petting zoo and baby seal sanctuary destined mainly as a set for the production of edgy reality television shows.

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