Testimony of Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton
Before the House Committee on Resources
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Rahall
and members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to testify this
morning on oil and gas exploration in the 1002 area of the coastal plain of
As you know, the Administration firmly believes that we can develop energy at home while protecting the environmental values we all hold dear.
With your indulgence I would like
to start by breaking a
I intend to do exactly that. My goal is to show that rhetoric is no substitute for the facts. Please watch this advertisement that ran on national television
and is now on the Internet.
Almost nothing in this video is representative of the Coastal Plain of ANWR. We call it the Coastal Plain because it is just that—a plain. There are no trees, there are no deepwater lakes. There are no mountains like those in the video. Outside the area affected by H.R. 39, there are mountains in ANWR—but they are designated as wilderness areas, and no one is remotely considering them for energy production.
Only the polar bear photo could have been taken anywhere on the Coastal Plain.
Now let’s take a look at what the Coastal Plain of Alaska actually looks like most of the year, with a video produced by Arctic Power. This is what I saw when I was there the last day of March 2001, with a 75 degree below zero wind chill.
This image of flat, white nothingness is what you would see the majority of the year. In fact there are 56 days of total darkness during the year, and almost nine months of harsh winter.
Rhetoric such as that in the advertisement brings in contributions, sways with emotionalism, and rarely bothers with all the facts. The differences are stark in these two presentations. I intend this morning to take you through the proposed legislation and to discuss some of the conclusions in the recent study by the National Academy of Sciences. I intend to uncover the facts for you as clearly and as graphically as time and the Committee’s audio-visual technology permit.
WHERE IS ANWR?
The State of
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
is located at the frozen Northern end of the state on the
that is congressionally designated wilderness. In 1980, in section 1002 of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, President Carter and the
Congress set aside 1.5 million acres of the coastal plain for potential exploration and development: the 1002 area. They did so because of initial indications of the area’s energy potential. That potential has since been reinforced by additional study. Only the 1002 area is under consideration for resource development in any proposals before the Congress.
How Much Oil Are We Really Talking About
A constant refrain by those opposed to oil development is that ANWR contains only a “short-term speculative supply of oil”.
The Coastal Plain is this nation’s single greatest onshore prospect for future oil. The USGS estimates that it contains a mean expected value of 10.4 billion
barrels of technically recoverable oil with a 95% probability of 5.7 billion barrels and a 5% probability of 16 billion barrels.
Let me put that into context for you. The potential daily production from the 1002 area alone is larger than the current daily onshore oil production of any
lower 48 state.
Once again, the estimated daily production from ANWR would exceed what
is now being produced in any individual State, including
of 10.4 billion barrels of oil, ANWR would supply every drop of petroleum
for the entire state of
We have now heard for more than 15 years that it isn’t worth developing on the Coastal Plain because it would take ten years to get the oil to market.
If we had begun exploration and development when the Congress first proposed it, Coastal Plain oil would be in the TAPS pipeline today.
This country is heavily reliant on
oil from the
Our imports and consumption however are going up. In the early 1990s, our oil imports surpassed our domestic oil production, and the gap is now widening.
In addition, in some cases, our
foreign sources of oil are becoming more and more unstable. Oil from the 1002 area could substantially
reduce our dependence on those sources. Last
December, strikers nearly shut down
In the last several years,
be months before that country resumes pumping at its earlier levels.
Our reliance on foreign oil has impacts on the lives of American families, farmers and workers—as the current gasoline price increase shows. As long as we have planes, trains and automobiles powered by oil and gas, we will need a homegrown, stable, reliable source of supply.
In addition to its resource potential, oil from the 1002 Area could be a new source of needed federal revenues. The Administration’s FY 2004 budget proposes
to dedicate the Federal share of the first lease sale bonus bids, estimated to be $1.2 billion, to the Department of Energy to fund increased renewable energy
technology research and development over seven years. The Administration’s proposal provides for a 50/50 split of future coastal plain revenues between the
Now let me turn to some of the fears about the environmental impacts of development in ANWR.
Using Facts to Address Fears
There are those who raise concerns
that one need merely look at the
the Department of the Interior
to develop the most stringently regulated oil and gas leasing program in the
regulation as an essential part of the ANWR proposal.
Because ANWR’s reserves are so concentrated, we can require exploration technologies that would not be viable anywhere else. We will test American
ingenuity and technology to develop ways to meet these strict standards and remain competitive.
There is much concern that opening the Coastal Plain will mean a proliferation of roads and off-road seismic trails directly affecting the tundra, altering animal
habitat and behavior, and increasing access for hunters and tourists.The legislation before you however, specifically prohibits development of that kind of infrastructure.
For example, older 2-D seismic on the Coastal Plain has been cited as a main impact to the tundra. This photograph, which was in the New York Times
yesterday, was taken one year after seismic testing in 1984. Today trails are still visible from the air. NAS points out the effects of older seismic tests are mainly visual and remain in only a small percentage of the disturbed areas. We have learned much from the seismic work done in the 1980s about how to protect the tundra from this kind of damage. As the New York Times reported, newer 3-D seismic methods have much less impact on the tundra than the older 2-D seismic tests.
Current practices now replace gravel roads with ice roads as a means of access to isolated drilling locations.
This slide shows an exploration drill site developed using new technology. There is little evidence of seismic trails, ice roads or ice pads—once the snow cover is gone.
The use of low ground-pressure vehicles called Rolligons addresses potential problems associated with exploration drilling in areas with limited freshwater supply
or shortened ice road seasons.
The development of new Arctic Drilling Platforms could reduce or eliminate altogether the need for ice roads or ice pads. This is especially useful in areas with limited freshwater supply. These elevated platforms, are often referred to as Lego pads because of their similarity to the toys that can be stacked in place.
The bill you are considering today requires the application
of the best commercially available technology for oil and gas exploration,
development, and production. New
technology offers ways of developing and producing oil without the web of roads
now found on the
The greater reach of horizontal wells and the use of multilateral drilling both reduce the need for large pads. In 1970, the average drill site was 65 acres.
It covered a subsurface area of about 3 square miles. Today, a drill pad at the Alpine field is only 13 acres. It allows companies to reach more than 50 square
miles of subsurface.
New technology allows extraction of oil from larger areas, reducing the number of pads needed to develop an oil field. Because the fields use more
effective drilling and fewer wells, waste, mud, and cuttings are less. Because fuel consumption is lower, there are fewer emissions.
One group, in its campaign against
opening ANWR, states “Spillage
from 20 years of oil extraction has substantially degraded habitat on the
However, the National Academy of
Sciences (NAS) found that despite widespread concern about spills, most spills
have been small and have had only local effects. Large magnitude spills have generally been
avoided on the
In fact, the NAS found that, to
date, the effects of contaminant spills have not accumulated on
Almost every group opposed to ANWR
development cites concerns about air quality on the
does not appear to have been seriously degraded by emissions from oil and gas production facilities. In fact, Arctic haze is the most conspicuous air quality
problem on the
We often see pictures of polar bears in appeals for funds to save the Arctic Refuge. One organization begins its plea with a statement that development “
could force polar bears to abandon their maternity dens, which they dig in the snowdrifts, and leave their cubs to die.” This comes from a 1985 report of one
polar bear leaving its den as a result of older seismic activity.
Polar bears have thrived since 1967. The NAS report found there have been no known
cases where polar bears have been affected by oil spilled as a result of
A number of environmental groups express concern
about the well-being of the muskoxen. The
animals once were exterminated throughout most of
The U.S. Geological Survey report entitled “Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain Terrestrial Wildlife Research Summaries” suggests a solution: “Avoidance by industry of areas used by muskoxen and the location of permanent facilities away from river corridors, flood plains, and adjacent uplands could reduce the probability of disturbance and displacement of muskoxen.”
For all activities in the 1002 area, H.R. 39 requires the following:
“Avoidance, to the extent practicable,
of springs, streams and river systems; the protection of natural surface drainage
patterns, wetlands, and riparian
habitats” as well as “consolidate, site, construct, and maintain facilities and pipelines to minimize effects on sensitive fish and wildlife habitats and species.”
By now I am sure every member of this Committee knows there are caribou on the Coastal Plain. There are those who have tried to convince you they will be irreparably harmed if we have any development on the Coastal Plain. Before I turn to a discussion of actual effects on caribou, I’d like you to remember the environmental standard in the bill before us:
Section 3 of H.R. 39 requires the Secretary to ensure “that oil and gas exploration, development, and production activities on the Coastal Plain will result in no significant adverse effect on fish and wildlife their habitat, subsistence resources, and the environment . . .” This standard is reiterated numerous times throughout H.R. 39.
The Central Arctic Herd is the
caribou herd in the
Many groups express concern about impacts on the Porcupine Caribou Herd’s calving grounds. We have all heard though, that the Porcupine Caribou Herd (PCH) is different from the Central Arctic Herd.
It’s important to keep in mind where the greatest potential for oil development is on the Coastal Plain. USGS scientists predict that 83% of the oil potential is on the far western side of the 1002 Area.
This is also the area least likely to see high concentrations of calving. In fact, a U.S. Geological Survey study found that under the most realistic scenario for developing the 1002 Area there would be a 95% chance of having no impact on calf survival.
Finally, it is also important to remember there are years where the Porcupine caribou herd does not use ANWR’s Coastal Plain at all for calving. In fact, in 2000, 2001, and 2002 that was the case.
Increased domestic oil production
means increased jobs for Americans. The
innovations in Arctic frontier technology continue to create jobs. Organizations that represent many of the workers
of this nation have pointed out that by tapping into petroleum resources in
The Coastal Plain is the single
greatest prospect for onshore oil and gas development of anyplace in the
To equal the potential of from 5.7 billion to 16 billion barrels of oil, we would have to explore and develop all potential fields in Regions 2, 3 and 4 on this map, nearly half the area of the contiguous states.
Neither this Administration nor the Interior Department arbitrarily picked the Coastal Plain for development. I repeat, the Coastal Plain is the single greatest prospect for development onshore in our Nation. Legislators back in 1980 realized that fact when they created the 1002 area.
Legislators today are looking at an
ANWR bill that includes the strongest environmental protections ever required
in an oil and gas leasing regime. We
have all learned from the past. We now
see the most environmentally protective development in the world at the newest
sites on the
As we consider the environmental factors affecting the Congressional choice about ANWR, one might ask what environmental protections are used in other countries on which we rely for 57 percent of our oil?
The legislation doesn’t ask developers to use new
technology; the proposal demands
the best available commercial technology.
This chart shows how drill pads have shrunk since
H.R. 39 doesn’t just ask that equipment be removed and the land be restored. It demands that whatever is taken in must be taken out, and the land must be restored to support its previous use for wildlife, or subsistence.
The problems identified by the NAS
report were problems mainly related to lands regulated by the State of
H.R. 39 doesn’t ask that wildlife be protected. It demands that developers protect wildlife or we will shut them down. If exploration interferes with migration or calving, we will shut it down.
It took courage back in 1973 for
a Democratic majority Congress to cast a vote in favor of building a pipeline
Sen. Walter Mondale said at the time, “It has always been my position that we need Alaskan oil and that this oil should flow to the lower 48 as soon as possible, consistent with environmental safeguards and the greatest benefit for the entire country.”
That pipeline has carried as much
as 2 million barrels a day from
That is a 20-20 vision we need to repeat,---“consistent with environmental safeguards.”
Partisanship should once again be put aside for energy security. I ask the Committee and the entire Congress to please examine the facts as the National Academy of Sciences did, and discount the rhetoric or partisanship. This decision is too important to the energy security of our country.