Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (4-13-04)
Energy concerns raised during the past two Congresses have spurred
action by both the administration and Congress towards creating a
national energy policy. A controversial issue that has received a
lot of press involves oil and natural gas exploration on the costal
plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), located in the
northeast corner of Alaska. As with the general public, drilling in
ANWR has aroused an array of opinions within the geoscience community.
Some geoscientists are supportive of opening ANWR to reverse declining
domestic exploration, while others oppose drilling due to the impact
it might have on the wilderness. Still others believe drilling ANWR
at some time in the future should remain a viable option, but exploration
of known reserves on other federal lands should be a priority. Regardless
of their views, geoscientists have played an important role in providing
policy makers with data on the refuge and its oil potential.
On March 31st the State of Alaska announced that it would sell leases
for oil and gas exploration for 350,000 acres of offshore areas immediately
north of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Additionally,
the state will offer up to 670,000 acres of state-managed lands north
of the nearby National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) for exploration
and development in an October lease sale.
In January Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton approved a plan
that would open almost 8.8 million acres in NPR-A. The Interior Department
is also considering revising 1998 rules for oil and gas activity in
the northeastern area of NPR-A because it believes that the rules
are keeping about 2 billion barrels of oil unavailable. The group
Earthjustice has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Wilderness Society
and six other plaintiffs that says that the Interior Department's
plan to open most of the 8.8 million-acre northwest area of NPR-A
to exploration violates the Endangered Species Act and the National
Environmental Protection Act.
Although drilling has been approved, new offshore ventures will still
not provide oil and gas from Alaska's North Slope immediately. Many
miles of pipeline still need to be built to connect the offshore areas
to the 800-mile trans-Alaska Pipeline System. According to Greenwire,
Alaska state officials believe that it will take at least six years
before oil would be brought to market and at least seven to 11 years
before natural gas would be brought to market. (4/13/04)
On April 11, 2003, the House passed comprehensive energy legislation
6), the Energy Policy act of 2003. Rep. Heather Wilson's (R-NM)
amendment was adopted by the house on April 10, 2003, limiting aspects
of development to 2,000 acres. The same day, the House rejected Rep.
Edward Markey's (D-MA) amendment that would delete ANWR development
from the bill entirely. H.R.
770 and S.
543 were recently introduced to Congress and would designate ANWR
as protected wilderness.
On March 19, 2003, the Senate passed an amendment that removes reconciliation
instructions to open ANWR for drilling from its fiscal year 2004 budget
resolution. The amendment -- offered by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA),
Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and Olympia Snowe
(R-ME) -- passed by a 52-48
margin, with eight Republicans voting against drilling and five Democrats
supporting drilling. The House is likely to include an ANWR provision
in its budget resolution, as it did last year, meaning the issue will
resurface in conference committee. ANWR will also remain an important
issue as both chambers work to create comprehensive energy legislation.
On March 4, 2003, the National Academy of Sciences released the report
Environmental Effects of Oil and Gas Activities on Alaska's North
Slope. The report, which was requested by Congress, says that
oil activities over the past 35 years have significantly impacted
Northern Alaska's environment. The report states that economic benefits
to the region were accompanied by environmental consequences, including
effects on the terrain, plants, and animals of the North Slope and
adjacent marine environment. The report does not offer a recommendation
regarding drilling in ANWR: "Whether the benefits derived from
oil and gas activities justify acceptance of the inevitable accumulated
undesirable effects that have accompanied and will accompany them
is an issue for society as a whole to debate and judge." (3/10/03)
On March 5, 2003, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) reintroduced legislation
543) to designate the 1002 Area of ANWR as a wilderness area,
a move that would permanently prevent oil and gas drilling in the
refuge. Even though the bill has attracted 23 cosponsors, including
one Republican, it is unlikely the legislation will pass given the
current make-up of the Senate. A similar bill (H.R.
770) was introduced in the House last month by Rep. Edward Markey
On March 14th, the Senate Budget Committee passed the fiscal year
2004 budget resolution, sending it to the floor for a final vote.
The committee's version included opening ANWR using the reconciliation
process (making changes in the federal government's mandatory spending
obligations and revenues). The resolution instructed the Senate Energy
and Natural Resources Committee to pass legislation opening the refuge
to exploration and drilling. The revenues from ANWR leasing would
then be used to fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. By including
ANWR in the reconciliation process, the provision is protected from
a filibuster, which would have required a 60-vote majority to break.
Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) had previously attempted to remove
the ANWR language from the resolution, but the measure was defeated
in committee with votes falling along party-lines. (3/18/03)
Congress created the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in 1980
through the Alaska
National Interest Lands Conservation Act. ANWR extends over 19
million acres in the state's northeast corner, making it the second-largest
refuge in the United States. Although drilling has never been allowed
in the refuge, in section 1002 of the Act, Congress left open the
possibility of drilling in 1.5 million acres of the northern coastal
plain (commonly referred to as the 1002 area) between the Brooks Range
and the Beaufort Sea. The 1002 area is used as breeding and migratory
habitat for more than 200 species, including muskox, swans, snow geese,
The Alaska delegation has been seeking to open ANWR for exploration
ever since it was created. Legislation to do so passed Congress in
1995 as part of an omnibus budget reconciliation bill (making changes
in the federal government's mandatory spending obligations and revenues),
but the bill was vetoed by President Clinton in part due to his opposition
to the ANWR provision. Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, while
opposing exploration in ANWR, did approve drilling in Alaska's National
Petroleum Reserve (NPR-A) another large parcel of the Arctic coastal
plain located in the state's northwest corner (see AGI's Update
on NPR-A for additional information). Babbitt's move was widely
viewed as an effort to relieve pressure on ANWR. Additional attempts
to add last minute provisions to appropriations bills were made throughout
the Clinton Administration, but were all later retracted or vetoed.
While there was talk last Congress of using a budget reconciliation
bill to obtain approval for exploration and development in ANWR, most
of the action focused on incorporating ANWR into efforts aimed at
creating a comprehensive energy legislation. ANWR was often sighted
as a way to increase energy security by decreasing the country's reliance
on foreign oil. Others argue that conservation strategies such as
raising fuel economy standards and moving towards the use of renewable
energy sources would accomplish the same goal. In February 2001, Senator
Frank Murkowski (R-AK), introduced energy legislation that included
a plan for an oil and gas leasing program for the 1002 area of ANWR,
measures to prevent environmental degradation and to set aside a portion
of lease receipts for funding of renewable energy research and development.
In May 2001, President Bush released his National
Energy Policy report that also proposed using ANWR lease bonuses
to fund research in renewable and alternative fuels. Murkowski's bills
were later dropped in June 2001 when Senator James Jeffords (VT) left
the Republican Party to become an Independent -- switching the control
of the Senate to the Democrats.
In March 2002, following the introduction of comprehensive energy
bills in both houses, Murkowski requested that the Energy Information
Administration (EIA) analyze
a range of related issues including the effects oil from ANWR would
have on the nation's dependency on foreign oil. Entitled The
Effects of the Alaska Oil and Natural Gas Provisions of H.R. 4 and
S. 1766 on U.S. Energy Markets, the report found that ANWR
oil production would reduce the percentage share of net imports by
2 percent on average -- dropping imports to 60 percent versus 62 if
ANWR is not drilled --and by 5 percent at most. According to the report,
"because the coastal plain of ANWR has had little exploration
activity, there is considerable uncertainty in the size of the oil
resources that might be eventually recovered." Comprehensive
energy legislation (H.R. 4) eventually made it to a conference committee
to work out differences between House and Senate version. The committee
compromised on language in hundreds of pages of bill text, but failed
to find a consensus on opening the ANWR for oil and gas exploration.
After the November elections, further work on energy legislation was
postponed till the 108th Congress.
Additional information on proposed energy policy legislation is available
at the AGI's Energy
Policy Overview. Several Congressional Research Service reports
available at the National
Library for the Environment provide a historical overview of the
ANWR debate and how it is related to current energy legislation. The
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released
a report in 1998
that estimated the potential oil reserves in ANWR as a part of the
National Oil and Gas Assessment. This was followed in 2000 by an Energy
Information Administration (EIA)
containing projections of future daily production rates from ANWR
based on the 1998 USGS assessment. In 2002, at the request of the
Interior Department's leadership, the USGS issued the Arctic
Refuge Coastal Plain Terrestrial Wildlife Research Summaries and
an additional supplemental
report on possible ANWR drilling impacts to Porcupine caribou,
musk oxen, snow geese and polar bears. The American Association of
Petroleum Geologists has developed a position
statement supporting exploration in ANWR.
Additional information on events from previous Congresses is available
at AGI's Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge Update 107th Congress.
Sources: Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, E&E
Daily, Greenwire, hearing documents, Library of Congress, The New
York Times, U.S. Geological Survey, White House, and Washington Post.
Contributed by Margaret A. Baker and David Applegate, AGI Government
Affairs Program; Charna Meth, 2003 Spring Semester Intern, and Gayle
Levy, 2004 Spring Semester Intern.
Background section includes material from AGI's Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge Update for the 107th Congress.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on April 13, 2004