Obama Administration attempts “Death by Regulation” for the Arctic: Elections Matter for Arctic Development

From a Greenwire story published on Friday, October 21st:

“The Obama administration is advancing a plan that would limit exploratory drilling and seismic surveys in the Arctic, in an effort to minimize impacts on marine mammals, subsistence hunting and the physical environment.

The final environmental impact statement analyzes the “potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts” of oil and gas activities in the Arctic Ocean, according to a notice in today’s Federal Register. The document details six alternatives, including a “preferred alternative” that would limit seismic surveys to seven per year and exploratory drilling programs to two per year.

The EIS’s preferred alternative would allow up to four seismic surveys annually in the Beaufort Sea and three in the Chukchi Sea, with only one in each sea that involves ice breaking. One exploratory drilling program would also be allowed in each sea.”

The Obama administration’s “preferred alternative” is the most restrictive alternative. Being even more restrictive than the Obama administration’s new safety and environmental regulations announced in July, to control offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean off the Alaskan coast.

One rig per basin per year. Other alternatives would allow up to 11 total seismic surveys and eight exploratory drilling programs.

The administration attempts to justify this choice by claiming that it correlates to the expected amount of activity for the area, suggesting that if more activity were to occur, other alternatives could be explored.  Headlamp is not confident that an anti-development administration would follow through on this commitment. 

This EIS comes as the Obama administration considers whether to include Arctic leases in its 2017-2022 oil and gas leasing program. The draft plan includes three leases off Alaska, but environmental groups have urged the administration to remove them all, saying any new drilling would thwart the Paris climate agreement.