Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205
04/03/2009 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 7-ENDORSING ANWR LEASING 3:41:40 PM CO-CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI announced the consideration of HJR 7. [Before the committee was CSHJR 7(RES). This being the first hearing, he stated that it is his intent to hear the resolution and hold it until the next hearing to provide members time to consider it and provide comments or suggestions. At ease from 3:42 to 3:43. REPRESENTATIVE CHERISSE MILLETT, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of HJR 7, said this resolution urges Congress to open the coastal plain of ANWR to oil and gas exploration and development. It is important at this time to let Congress know that the Legislature is concerned about the possible closure of ANWR and that it is important to open development of all Alaska lands for the benefit of Alaskans and the United States. ANWR holds the largest reserve for oil and gas development in the U.S. and is considered to have high potential for continued discovery. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT highlighted that the resolution has been amended to include an additional "whereas" clause addressing directional drilling and the development impact area has been reduced to 2,000 acres. SENATOR WAGONER said he knows that industry has repeatedly said that 2,000 acres is enough area to develop, but he is skeptical that it is enough. "It just kind of flies in the face of reality because it's a small area," he said. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT replied at one point it was 7,000 acres, but because of technology advancements the oil industry has said it needs just 1,642 acres. That was rounded up to 2,000 acres to provide leeway. SENATOR WAGONER said it isn't the drilling that takes space; it's the pipe storage yards and support services. He wants the committee to be aware that some people might question the number. SENATOR FRENCH thanked Representative Millett for bringing this up. He has supported ANWR drilling for a long time. He mentioned how long Exxon sat on the Point Thomson lease and asked if the resolution should include a "duty to develop" clause. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT replied the federal leasing department has said that their leases carry an implied duty to produce. This has never been an issue. 3:49:31 PM SENATOR FRENCH asked if she said that the federal government has leases similar to Alaska's leases where the duty to produce is implied rather than stated. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT answered yes; the federal leasing department told her they never saw the need to put duty to produce language in a lease because there had never been a problem. "They didn't understand why we would do that if they'd never had an issue in all the leasing they've done on federal lands," she said. SENATOR FRENCH asked for clarification that she said that it is not explicit in the lease, but it is implicit that there is a duty to produce. Since the federal leasing department hasn't had a problem, they haven't added the language. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT concurred with the summary. SENATOR FRENCH said he'd like to see that documentation because some people have criticized the slow development on federal lands. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT commented that she found it interesting that federal leases are handed back more frequently than state leases. SENATOR STEVENS asked where the resolution mentions directional drilling. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT directed attention to page 3, line 10. 3:52:00 PM SENATOR WAGONER recalled that there was an agreement years ago between Washington Senator Scoop Johnson and Alaska Senator Ted Stevens to continue to push for oil exploration in ANWR regardless of what might happen in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He asked about including a "whereas" clause acknowledging that point because it's part of the history of the ANWR battle and discussion. SENATOR HUGGINS asked if she knows the top ten reasons that people oppose opening ANWR. REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT replied some of the opposition includes: environmental concerns, impacts to wildlife, the desire to keep ANWR unchanged, and concerns about the Gwich'in lifestyle. 3:54:40 PM CHRIS CANNON, representing himself from Fairbanks said he opposes HJR 7. He said he believes that the coastal plain is about the last five percent of land that is not open to oil and gas leasing. He questions how much is enough and if this how we want to generate state revenue. His perspective is that this isn't so much an energy issue as a big non-renewable dollar sign for the state. I'm testifying because this is important to me and I hope you can appreciate that, he concluded. SENATOR WAGONER asked where he works. MR. CANNON replied he works for the Gwich'in Steering Committee for eight months of the year and as a professional mountain guide the other four months. SENATOR WAGONER asked how many children he has in school. MR. CANNON replied he has none. LUCY BEECH, Executive Director, Gwich'in Steering Committee, said that ANWR or the 1002 Area is known as the sacred place where life begins to the Gwich'in people. It is the calving and nursery ground of the Porcupine caribou herd upon which the Gwich'in tribe has depended for over 20,000 years. Even during famines they did not enter the calving and nursing grounds because it is so sacred. Most tribal people believe that spawning, calving, and nursery grounds are sacred and humans have no business desecrating them. Alaska Natives have given up so much to the state, but things aren't getting better. "All I see is our lives are getting worse," she said. MS. BEECH pointed out that the existing development on the North Slope has emitted 41,408 tons of nitrous oxide and 779 tons of sulfur dioxide, a key cause of acid rain. Recently friends in the Prince William Sound saw the 20th anniversary of the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill. How do you fix such a mess? "We're not willing to have a place we consider sacred to be gambled with," she said. This place needs to be off limits. 4:00:56 PM PAM MILLER, Northern Alaska Environmental Center (NAEC), Fairbanks, said she is putting this issue in context by pointing out that NAEC is excited about the bill that just passed that addresses alternative energy resources. Other bills under consideration about renewable energy, weatherization, and energy efficiency are measures that will make life better for people and communities statewide. NAEC endorses those efforts as the future of sustainable energy in Alaska. MS. MILLER highlighted that just this week the state announced a civil action against BP for continuing poor maintenance, negligence, and spills on the North Slope. The records that were provided by the state regarding the status of oversight of pipeline safety and spill reduction were a far cry from what is included in that civil complaint. She suggested legislators read that before supporting the opening of this one protected area of Alaska. Even the Department of Natural Resources admits this is the only area on the North Slope that is protected for its habitat value. She added that part of that civil action was that when pipe repairs commenced the workers were exposed to asbestos that was then released into the air. This is in contradiction to the Clean Air Act. There has been chronic poor management of areas that are open to oil and gas so it seems fruitless to go into an area that's been protected for wildlife since 1960. Furthermore, there are still decades of oil to produce on already open state land. MS. MILLER described as specious the argument that 2,000 acres is an adequate footprint for development since the proposed drilling area is scattered over 1.5 million acres. 4:04:24 PM CARL PORTMAN, Deputy Director, Resource Development Council (RDC), said he is testifying in support of HJR 7. RDC is a statewide nonprofit founded in 1975. This membership-funded organization is comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska oil and gas, mining, timber, tourism, and fishing industries, as well as Native corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. Its purpose is to link these diverse interests to encourage a strong diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state's economic base through responsible development of natural resources. MR. PORTMAN said the 1002 area of ANWR is considered to be the nation's most promising onshore oil and gas prospect, and there is strong statewide support for its environmentally responsible development. It could play a large role in the state's future prosperity, create thousands of jobs, and reduce reliance on foreign oil. Even if all major prospects are developed, 92 percent of ANWR would remain closed to exploration. If the footprint is limited to just 2,000 acres, that would be well under one percent of the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. MR. PORTMAN posited that the U.S. must continue to pursue new oil and gas development even as it slowly transitions to new energy sources. Even under the most optimistic projections, the nation will be dependent on fossil fuels for nearly 80 percent of its energy consumption in 2030. "As a result, for every barrel of oil America refuses to develop domestically, it will have little choice but to import an equal amount from overseas where weaker environmental regulations often apply," he stated. ADRIAN HERERA, Arctic Power, said this nonprofit, grassroots organization has for more than 12 years worked in Washington D.C. to open ANWR. HJR 7 is crucial to this effort because resolutions from the Alaska Legislature weigh heavily in this contentious debate. A majority of Americans support opening the 1002 area of ANWR and those who do not support it oftentimes change their minds to the affirmative once told that most Alaskans and the state government support the issue. The ANWR issue will continue to be contentious in the future partly because it is the number one fundraising mechanism for the environmental lobby, he said. Most recently on Capitol Hill bills were introduced in both bodies to lock up the 1002 area with a wilderness designation. A letter that will be delivered to the White House is also circulating around Congress to put off limits the entire on and off shore Arctic area to all forms of commercial development. This is a threat to Alaska's sovereignty over its lands. HJR 7 represents the voice of Alaskans and tells Congress that they care and want the issue dealt with responsibly. CO-CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI closed public testimony and held HJR 7 for further work.