Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

04/03/2009 03:30 PM Senate RESOURCES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSSB 150(RES) Out of Committee
Moved HJR 21 Out of Committee
          HJR 18-OPPOSING ANWR WILDERNESS DESIGNATION                                                                       
4:10:55 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  WIELECHOWSKI announced  consideration of  HJR 18.  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.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CHERISSE   MILLETT,  Alaska   State  Legislature,                                                               
sponsor of HJR 18, said  this resolution urges Congress to reject                                                               
any legislation seeking wilderness  designation for the 1002 area                                                               
of  ANWR. This  is and  has been  a very  active and  contentious                                                               
subject on Capitol  Hill. Alaska voices need to  be heard because                                                               
the wilderness  designation cuts  off the opportunity  to develop                                                               
oil and gas reserves in the  area. "It may be even more important                                                               
than opening ANWR at this  point in time because…once it's closed                                                               
it would be  one enormous task to…undesignate  it as wilderness,"                                                               
she said.                                                                                                                       
4:12:30 PM                                                                                                                    
CARL  PORTMAN,  Deputy  Director,  Resource  Development  Council                                                               
(RDC), stated support for HJR  18. A wilderness designation would                                                               
preclude   future    action   by   Congress   to    provide   for                                                               
environmentally  responsible exploration  and  production of  oil                                                               
and gas resources within the  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he                                                               
said. Federal  wilderness should not  be expanded to  include the                                                               
1002  area  given  that  it   is  considered  the  nation's  most                                                               
promising onshore oil and gas  prospect. This particular area was                                                               
intentionally  excluded from  ANWR's  large  wilderness block  in                                                               
1980 through  a compromise that  allowed ANILCA to  move forward.                                                               
This compromise doubled the size  of the Alaska National Wildlife                                                               
Range and converted it to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.                                                                  
4:13:44 PM                                                                                                                    
ADRIAN HERERA,  Arctic Power, stated  strong support for  HJR 18.                                                               
Once wilderness  designation is achieved  on federal land,  it is                                                               
extremely hard to undo, he said.  Arctic Power looks at this as a                                                               
one shot  deal because a wilderness  designation will effectively                                                               
lock up the land forevermore.                                                                                                   
4:14:34 PM                                                                                                                    
PAM   MILLER,  Northern   Alaska  Environmental   Center,  stated                                                               
opposition to HJR  18. She pointed out  that Republican President                                                               
Eisenhower  established the  Arctic  National  Wildlife Range  in                                                               
1960 for  its wilderness, wildlife, and  recreational values. The                                                               
coastal  plain  was included.  He  recognized  the value  of  the                                                               
entire ecosystem  of which  the coastal  plain is  the biological                                                               
heart. This  is where the  birds and animals spend  critical time                                                               
for nesting,  birthing and  nursing. "It is  an integral  part of                                                               
the Arctic refuge."                                                                                                             
MS.  MILLER noted  that this  area was  withdrawn in  a brilliant                                                               
balancing  act at  the time  of statehood  and the  state got  20                                                               
million acres, including Prudhoe  Bay. USGS believes that nothing                                                               
in the  Arctic National Wildlife  Refuge compares to  that field.                                                               
That's  part  of  the  reason  it was  set  aside  at  the  time.                                                               
Certainly there is  some oil potential there but  Alaska needs to                                                               
look to  the future  and what  will help  Alaskans. "Conservation                                                               
will  save…by  2030,   17  times  more  imports   than  the  most                                                               
optimistic  projection of  drilling  in the  Arctic refuge,"  she                                                               
said.  Describing  this  as  a  landmark  issue,  she  asked  the                                                               
committee to  also represent the  views of the many  Alaskans who                                                               
want to see this area protected. HJR 18 does not do this.                                                                       
SENATOR FRENCH  asked the degree  of overlap between  the coastal                                                               
plain and the 1002 area.                                                                                                        
MS.  MILLER   replied  the   coastal  plain   has  a   number  of                                                               
connotations, but it is legally a  term in ANILCA and in that Act                                                               
the 1002  area is the  same as the  coastal plain. The  1002 area                                                               
has  1.5  million  acres  and  all  of  the  geographic  features                                                               
including the bird nesting areas are included in that area.                                                                     
SENATOR FRENCH  asked if she is  saying that none of  the coastal                                                               
plain is outside the 1002 area.                                                                                                 
MS. MILLER replied the coastal  plain has two definitions just as                                                               
Prudhoe Bay  has two.  Prudhoe Bay is  a geographic  feature, but                                                               
it's also  an oil field and  is the term that's  commonly used to                                                               
describe  all the  oil fields  at Prudhoe  Bay. Under  ANILCA the                                                               
coastal plain is the same as the 1002 area.                                                                                     
SENATOR FRENCH  noted that the  first "whereas" clause on  page 2                                                               
outlines a compromise that was struck  in 1980. "The deal was you                                                               
get 17,000  acres designated  wilderness and  we get  1.5 million                                                               
acres that might  some day be opened for oil  drilling." He asked                                                               
why that deal should change.                                                                                                    
MS. MILLER  replied Congress  wanted to  retain control  over the                                                               
fate of  that area. As  part of the  deal it withdrew  the entire                                                               
coastal  plain and  prohibited by  law any  oil and  gas leasing,                                                               
development, and  production from the entire  Arctic refuge. That                                                               
is  a higher  standard  than  any other  wildlife  refuge in  the                                                               
country except for those with  a wilderness designation. It was a                                                               
lame duck  deal that resulted  in this  law, but the  language of                                                               
the  law itself  is  clear.  "If there  was  a backroom  promise,                                                               
that's  very  different  than  what   is  in  the  public  record                                                               
concerning this 1002 area," she said.                                                                                           
CO-CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI  recognized that Senator Bunde  and Senator                                                               
Menard joined the committee some time ago.                                                                                      
4:21:31 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS asked her top  four reasons for opposing drilling                                                               
in the area.                                                                                                                    
MS. MILLER replied  some very special places on  earth deserve to                                                               
be protected.  Today there is  no technology that is  adequate to                                                               
protect  that land.  The area  should be  protected for  fish and                                                               
wildlife  habitat,  clean  water, subsistence  for  the  Gwich'in                                                               
people, and to meet international treaty obligations.                                                                           
SENATOR WAGONER asked where the Gwich'in people originated.                                                                     
LUCY  BEECH, Gwich'in  Steering  Committee,  said their  creation                                                               
story says that  the Gwich'in retained part of  the caribou heart                                                               
and the  caribou retained  part of the  Gwich'in heart.  "This is                                                               
where the Creator put us and  gave us this amazing gift and place                                                               
to live and to take care of."                                                                                                   
SENATOR WAGONER stated  for the record that he has  read that the                                                               
Gwich'in people migrated from Canada's Northwest Territories.                                                                   
MS.  BEECH  said  at  one  time the  Gwich'in  were  nomadic  and                                                               
followed the  caribou, but  for 20,000 years  they have  lived in                                                               
communities  in what  is now  the  northeast part  of Alaska  and                                                               
northwest part of Canada.                                                                                                       
CO-CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI  asked Ms.  Beech if  she had  testimony to                                                               
4:25:53 PM                                                                                                                    
LUCY  BEECH,  Gwich'in  Steering Committee,  said  the  Porcupine                                                               
caribou herd  is currently moving  from its wintering  grounds to                                                               
its calving and  nursery grounds in the longest  migration of any                                                               
land mammal in the world. Soon,  birds from all 50 states and six                                                               
continents will be headed there. The  1002 area is one of the few                                                               
places on  earth that  polar bears go  to den. It  is one  of the                                                               
last intact Arctic and Subarctic  ecosystems in the world. It has                                                               
the most biodiversity  of the circumpolar north region.  It is an                                                               
incredibly valuable area  and is very important to  people of the                                                               
Gwich'in  Nation. "We  of course  want to  see it  protected; the                                                               
caribou has sustained us since time immemorial."                                                                                
4:28:43 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  BEECH  said Alaska  Natives  have  seen vast  and  difficult                                                               
changes. We've  done an amazing  job surviving in the  Arctic and                                                               
Subarctic,   but  we've   thrown  into   corporations  and   have                                                               
subsistence laws to follow, she  said. It's an entirely different                                                               
way  of life  and it  isn't  easy. "We're  asking to  hang on  to                                                               
something that we have left,  something that has been passed down                                                               
to us from our ancestors that we  want to pass on to our children                                                               
and our grandchildren,"  she stated. In 1988  the Gwich'in Nation                                                               
determined  it  would  oppose  development  in  the  calving  and                                                               
nursery ground and it has  continued to affirm that position. "We                                                               
are people that want to continue our way of life."                                                                              
SENATOR WAGONER  asked if the  Gwich'in Nation ever sold  any oil                                                               
or gas rights to oil companies.                                                                                                 
MS. BEECH  replied at one  time they did  lease an area  that was                                                               
not along  a migratory  route or  in a  calving or  nursery area.                                                               
However, when the elders saw  it was impacting small animals like                                                               
squirrels  and rabbits  they  put a  stop to  it.  "That was  the                                                               
Arctic Village in Venetie in the southern part their reserve."                                                                  
4:31:07 PM                                                                                                                    
CHRIS  CANNON,  representing  himself,   said  wilderness  is  an                                                               
important reason why he lives  in Alaska. He can't understand how                                                               
opening the last  five percent of the North Slope  to oil and gas                                                               
companies can  be a  compromise. He'd like  to see  wilderness in                                                               
Alaska that  represents the Arctic  and this is all  that's left.                                                               
Already it's  not a  true compromise.  If we  open our  minds and                                                               
look at  other sources  of energy,  we won't  have to  fight over                                                               
sensitive areas. He  suggested that the same  drilling rigs could                                                               
be used to tap into geothermal  almost anywhere in Alaska, not in                                                               
just one oil patch.                                                                                                             
CO-CHAIR  WIELECHOWSKI closed  public  testimony and  set HJR  18                                                               

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