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sazan 01-10-2007 06:39 AM

Bristol Bay/Symbolic Move ?
Aleutian basin oil, gas OK'd for lease
BRISTOL BAY: President approves lifting ban on sales in richest red salmon grounds.
Anchorage Daily News

Published: January 10, 2007
Last Modified: January 10, 2007 at 02:42 AM
But Juettner and others noted that years of work, including extensive environmental studies and other steps, remain before any drilling rigs go to work in the bay.

Eric Siy, executive director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, said his group would call on the new Democrat-controlled Congress to restore the Bristol Bay leasing ban.

The Bush administration Tuesday announced it had lifted a ban on offshore oil and gas leasing in Bristol Bay, ending months of speculation that the president was about to clear the way for what once was considered a taboo idea for the fish-rich region.
The state's top politicians generally hailed the action as a chance for Southwest Alaska to revive its threadbare economy.
But environmentalists and others panned the administration, saying that drilling and oil and gas development could ruin the bay's rich stocks of fish, sea mammals and birds.
The lifting of the ban, which dated to the presidency of Bush's father and otherwise was to remain in force until 2012, signifies a remarkable turnaround for a region where drillers long were shunned.
Drilling supporters say sentiments began to change in the late 1990s as the region's mainstay industry, salmon fishing, fell on hard times because of competition from foreign fish farmers.
They say oil and gas -- government geologists estimate the bay might hold large amounts of both -- could pump new economic vitality into the sparsely populated region, without hurting the fishing.
Bob Juettner, administrator of the Aleutians East Borough, the local government closest to the proposed leasing area, said the appeal of oil and gas is simple.
"It's money," he said. "It's money in the form of a new economy. It's money in the form of taxes."
But Juettner and others noted that years of work, including extensive environmental studies and other steps, remain before any drilling rigs go to work in the bay.
Federal officials have proposed offering 5.6 million acres for lease off the coast of the remote Alaska Peninsula. It's the same zone the government offered in a 1988 lease sale that drew $95 million in bids from oil companies.
Partly because of the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in 1989, the government bought back the drilling rights in 1995.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said Tuesday that President Bush had lifted the leasing ban on Bristol Bay as well as on an area of the Gulf of Mexico south of Alabama.
Removing the ban clears the way for Bristol Bay lease sales, which the U.S. Minerals Management Service has proposed for 2010 and 2012.
Even though they were once booted out of the bay, oil companies are likely to show strong interest if acreage is again offered for lease, said Cam Toohey, a former Interior official who now works for Shell. The major oil company bought rights in 1988 and campaigned for lifting the Bristol Bay leasing ban.
U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and other state politicians praised Bush's action, but said care must be taken not to damage the bay's extraordinary sea life.
"Imported farmed salmon, high energy costs and the region's remoteness have limited economic development and contributed to high poverty in the region," Stevens said. "The possibility of oil and gas development in Bristol Bay presents a series of new opportunities to the people of this region."
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who herself has fished commercially in Bristol Bay, said she supports leasing "if we can be sure it will not threaten the fisheries that are the foundation of the region's economy and way of life."
While support for onshore drilling has been uniformly strong around the bay -- the state conducted a lease sale on the nearby Alaska Peninsula in 2005 -- support for offshore drilling has been far from unanimous.
Bay waters teem with the world's largest annual migration of sockeye salmon as well as king and snow crab, herring and bottom fish worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The bay also is rich in whales, walrus and other marine mammals important to Native subsistence hunters.
One whale species, the Northern Pacific right whale, is critically endangered, and leasing opponents say noisy seismic testing could disrupt the whales and other animals.
Bristol Bay is "really one of the last, best places in the world that we should subject to the very real risks of oil and gas development," said Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor who has spoken out globally about oil industry ills and spills.
"What I see over and over again is industry and the government overstating the potential benefits and understating the risks," Steiner said. "In this case, the risks dramatically outweigh the benefits."
Eric Siy, executive director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, said his group would call on the new Democrat-controlled Congress to restore the Bristol Bay leasing ban.
The Minerals Management Service sees the bay, also known as the North Aleutian Basin, as more of a natural gas prospect than oil. Government geologists estimate the zone could hold up to 23.3 trillion cubic feet of gas and 2.5 billion barrels of oil.
Shell representatives have been openly bullish about the bay's potential, showing groups of fishermen and others a vision of offshore platforms feeding natural gas to a port at Balboa Bay, near Sand Point, where the gas would be liquefied and loaded onto tankers.
Daily News reporter Wesley Loy can be reached at or 257-4590.
Reaction to lifting the lease ban
"The president has opened the door for us. But we're going to walk through it very, very cautiously. We need to make sure development can work with the traditional commercial and subsistence fisheries we have relied on for thousands of years."
-- Stanley Mack, commercial fisherman and Aleutians East Borough mayor
"The decision gives residents of Bristol Bay the opportunity to look for new energy sources within their own region to meet their needs."
-- U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens
"Why risk ruining a billion-dollar fishery, a valuable sport hunting and fishing industry, a critical resource for Native Alaskans and one of the most important places for marine wildlife populations in the Bering Sea?"
-- Bill Eichbaum, World Wildlife Fund
"If we can be sure it will not threaten the fisheries that are the foundation of the region's economy and way of life, I'm all for it."
-- Gov. Sarah Palin
"The president's action today ends an admirable history of bipartisan protection for Bristol Bay."
-- Eric Siy, Alaska Marine Conservation Council
"This is not the end of the public process, but rather the start of a dialogue that could lead to important energy development in our state."
-- U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski

sazan 01-10-2007 06:41 AM

The Bush withdrawal from only means that Federal Agency can start process which needs years of environmental study as required by National Environmental Policy Act and has to pass the test of Endanger Species Acts.

Just recently Federal Court in Anchorage found the government's environmental analysis violated federal environmental laws and decided to strike down the Interior Department's leasing plan for the area around the internationally significant wildlife habitat around Teshekpuk Lake in the Northeast Planning Area of the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska (NPRA). The decision prohibits the BLM from proceeding with a planned sale of oil and gas leases on more than 400,000 acres around the Teshekpuk Lake.

Any proposal to drill in Bristol Bay will also violate Endanger Species Acts!
Since 9-Circuit Appeal Court , which has the jurisdiction over Alaska, is very pro-environmental, it is unlikely that oil lobby will prevail to twist environmental law.

With Democrats in charge of the congress, the congressional ban will most likely be restore soon.

The congressional protection of Bristol Bay was lifted by Republicans as a part of Interior Department appropriation bill, which canít be veto, in 2003. The same way Democrats (Momost likely) will restore the ban soon, specially that many prominent Republicans, now inminority, in US Senate and Congress also oppose the drilling in pristine places like Arctic Refuge ( McCain).

Finally, before any rig will be placed in Bristol Bay, Bush will be long gone from the White House ( Yes!!!!) and the next president most likely will reinstate the ban, although
the congressional ban or court decision down the road, will do a job.
Very large amount of oil has been found recently in the Gulf of Mexico, significantly exceeding Alaska resources.

Still, the blind oilman, influenced by his master Dick and oil lobbyist present in every branch of the Federal Government will try to make one stupid decision after another.
Luckily, the climate in Washington has changed dramatically.


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