Morning Headlamp — President Obama Places More Regulation on Alaskan Waters

Enough already. On Friday, President Obama announced protections for the northern reaches of Alaska’s lands and waters, closing off more than 40,000 square miles of Bering Strait-area waters to future oil leases and requiring the federal government to set up a system for increasing the input of Native people. The executive order closely mirrors requests brought to the White House this year by the Association of Village Council Presidents, Kawerak, Inc. and the Bering Sea Elders Group.

Natalie Landreth, senior staff attorney at the Native American Rights Fund, said the move to block off those areas to drilling effectively closes the door on a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Amoco Production v. Village of Gambell, which left the area an unlikely source of oil and gas development, but without any long-term clarity in the situation. The communities there wanted the White House to “protect us from having to oppose lease sales every five years for the rest of our lives,” Landreth said. The president has also ordered federal agencies to consider traditional knowledge in its actions and set up a formal consultation program to employ the input of regional tribal governments.

The move comes a day after Alaska’s all-Republican congressional delegation — Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young — sent Obama a letter objecting to any use of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to withdraw offshore waters from future oil and gas leases. Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said Friday that while he supports the efforts of tribal leaders to protect their resources and find economic opportunities, the state government is worried about new moves to limit oil and gas drilling “at a time when the state is grappling with declining oil prices and production. We are concerned about the timing and lack of clarity on how this executive order will be implemented in the coming years.”

According to the Alaska Dispatch News, support industry companies are adapting to warmer temperatures when it comes to building North Slope ice-roads. Instead of gravel roads, support companies now look to make makeshift “asphalt” of ice chips, snow and lake water. “Ice roads are an amazing compromise,” said Brian Shumaker, co-owner of BeadedStream, a company providing temperature sensors that help analyze ground conditions before roads are built. “It minimizes the impact of exploration and construction.” “Companies are like, ‘I only have $50 million to do this test well. I don’t want to waste it sitting around in camp waiting for an ice road to open,'” Shumaker said. As always, Headlamp applauds support industry companies for their continued ingenuity in making the oil and gas industry as efficient and responsible as can be.

Oil prices surged to their highest level since mid-2015 on Monday after the world’s top crude producers agreed to the first joint output cut since 2001, sparking concerns about inflation, which pushed up U.S. Treasury yields to a more than two-year peak.

 

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First Reads

Obama administration offers parting protections for Alaska waters and tribes
Alaska Dispatch News, Erica Martinson, December 10, 2016

As temperatures rise, oil industry adapts to sustain Alaska ice-road seasons
Alaska Dispatch News, Alex DeMarban, December 10, 2016

Russia among other nations joining OPEC to cut oil output
Alaska Dispatch News, Vladimir Soldatkin, Rania El Gamal, Alex Lawler, December 11, 2016

Analysis: Saudi Arabia signals aggressive cuts to show commitment to OPEC output deal
S&P Global, December 11, 2016

Trump vows to address Dakota Access, Keystone XL
Argus, December 11, 2016

Oil hits highest price since mid-2015 as global producers agree to cut
Alaska Dispatch News, Caroline Valetkevitch, December 12, 2016