Bering Sea Elder Group Comes out in Opposition to OCS Leasing Plan

President Obama withheld 98% of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas from future oil and gas leases, the area encompasses 115 million acres. The areas are being proposed as leases under the Trump administration. Image-BEOM

President Obama withheld 98% of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas from future oil and gas leases, the area encompasses 115 million acres. The areas are being proposed as leases under the Trump administration. Image-BEOM


The Bering Sea Elders Group came out in opposition of Trump’s decision to open wide swaths of Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf to leasing on Friday.

The group pointed out that the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management (BOEM) had promised the group that it would meaningfully consult them on any proposed drilling in the region’s waters, but went ahead with the Trump plan to open up the area despite the unanimous opposition of 76 tribes in the region.

While U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said, that he visited the North Slope to talk to Alaska Natives and elected officials and said “The response was overwhelmingly positive,” BSEG says that the group had told BOEM of the unanimous opposition in the region, and said,  “We told them that in person last October and again in writing, that there were 76 tribes in these regions opposed to this.”

In a statement, the group said, 

The people of the northern Bering Sea rely on the waters off our coast for subsistence and survival and we will not stand by while our way of life is threatened. We will take all legal means necessary to fight offshore drilling in our waters. We have used the legal system to fight it before and we will do it again. We were made for times like these and we will stand strong and united.

BSEG continued, saying, 

We have made it clear to Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and Congressman Young multiple occasions that drilling in the northern Bering Sea is off limits. We now call on them to communicate that directly to Secretary Zinke. We, the people of the Bering Sea, are more valuable than drilling.

Offshore, BOEM’s revised estimates of mean undiscovered technically recoverable resources in the Beaufort Sea Outer Continental Shelf Planning Area are 8.9 billion barrels of oil and 27.7 trillion cubic feet of gas. BOEM’s updated assessment resulted in a net increase of nearly 700 million barrels of oil equivalent over BOEM’s 2016 Beaufort Sea Planning Area assessment.

“Just as we have always known, this assessment shows that the NPR-A has significant potential and will remain a big part of our energy future,” Senator Lisa Murkowski said. “I thank Secretary Zinke for traveling to this area with me earlier this year, for directing USGS to update its resource assessment, and for working with Alaskans on a better plan for responsible development.””The good news for Alaska and America’s energy dominance continues,”  said Senator Dan Sullivan. “Alaska’s vast resources offer a superior opportunity for us to provide jobs, energy, and security to our nation and our allies. This updated assessment by the USGS and BOEM shows that the resources are there and the time is now to invest in our vast Arctic energy potential.”

“I am pleased with the Secretary’s announcement,”  said Alaska Congressman Don Young‎. “I have consistently fought to defend and grow both the Alaskan and American economy. Finding more recoverable oil in the NPR-A will be a benefit to everyone in our nation. I stand with the majority of Alaskans in asking Secretary Zinke and the President to continue efforts to expand our energy independence through exploration and responsible development of the NPR-A and Coastal Plain.”

Secretary Zinke said in his statement, that the “announcement lays out the options that are on the table and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period. Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks.”