Senator Giessel’s Letter to the Honorable Secretary Pritzker and Ms. Sobeck
Apr21

Senator Giessel’s Letter to the Honorable Secretary Pritzker and Ms. Sobeck

April 20, 2015 The Honorable Penny Pritzker Secretary of Commerce United States Department of Commerce 1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20230 Eileen Sobed{ Assistant Administrator for Fisheries NOAA Fisheries Service 1315 East-West Highway Silver Springs, MD 20910 RE: NOAA-NMFS-2015-0035; Endangered and Threatened Species; Identification of 14 Distinct Population Segments of the Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) and Proposed Revision of Species-wide Listing. Honorable Secretary Pritzker and Ms. Sobeck, As Chair of the Resources Committee in the Alaska Senate, I take seriously our obligation to maximize our state’s resources for the maximum benefit of the people. That principle applies not only to extracting or harvesting finite and renewable resources; the health of our maritime ecosystems is a legacy future generation of Alaskans must have as their inheritance. It is from that standpoint that I commend the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Fisheries’ (NOAA Fisheries) proposal today on both identifying distinct populations of the humpback whale, as well as delisting ten of those populations from the Endangered Species List. The State of Alaska has contributed to the public discourse and shaping of proposals such as this through our in-house expertise in the various public agencies. Our Department of Fish & Game, for example, sent a lengthy, thoroughly researched petition to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker last February, requesting the same proposal that NOAA Fisheries has announced today. Then Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, Doug Vincent-Lang, made a compelling case for the uniqueness of the Central North Pacific Population of the humpback whale. Mr. Vincent-Lang assessed the ecology, structure, genetics, and ranges of this Distinct Population Segment (DPS), and produced conclusions that today’s proposal has validated. This rigorous analytical process is an example of how Alaska will continue to study, and contribute to the robustness of our wildlife for the benefit of all Americans. This proposal would continue the trajectory of population rehabilitation set forward in the final recovery plan for the humpback whale in 1991. At that time, the commercial whaling of humpbacks contributed significantly to the existential threat the species was under. Since then, the Central North Pacific humpback population has grown by an average of 5-7% annually, according to data from the National Marine Fisheries Service. Given that there appears to be little probability of a return to commercial whaling, I feel assured that this growth in population would not be impacted from being removed on the Endangered Species List. More importantly, by more accurately categorizing the humpback whale species into distinct population segments, precious resources can be marshalled and directed to those segments whose health are on the margin. Moneys and man hours spent on a...

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GASLINE COMPROMISE ATTEMPTS FALL SHORT:Legislature continues with HB 132 to protect gasline funds
Apr09

GASLINE COMPROMISE ATTEMPTS FALL SHORT:Legislature continues with HB 132 to protect gasline funds

GASLINE COMPROMISE ATTEMPTS FALL SHORT Legislature continues with HB 132 to protect gasline funds Tuesday, March 31, 2015, Juneau, Alaska – In hopes of restoring certainty to the Alaska LNG Project, House Speaker Mike Chenault and Senate President Kevin Meyer held multiple meetings over the last six days with Governor Bill Walker to consider a compromise outside of House Bill 132. Those attempts at an agreement on how to move forward on natural gas development fell short today and the Senate passed HB 132. The legislation affirms the policy direction set by the Legislature for state ownership in the Alaska LNG Project, while protecting nearly $200 million in a reserve account to fund a state alternative if necessary. “The House passed HB 132, in large part because our members found it unconscionable that we give the governor carte blanche over $200 million to work on a plan they have no details on,” Chenault, R-Nikiski, said. “We, as the Legislature, are the appropriating body. We have a responsibility to Alaskans to be prudent and deliberative in spending the state’s money, and writing a blank check for a plan that we know nothing about and have not vetted in our public process was a non-starter.” “It is troubling that we could not reach consensus on this issue,” Meyer, R-Anchorage, said. “This is Alaska’s economic future and we are all invested in its success. HB 132 reaffirms the path that we chose, that we vetted, and that we know will provide the maximum benefit to our state. As a legislature, we do not have the level of confidence in the governor’s plan, because one has not been presented to us after repeated requests.” The legislature offered the following compromise: at Walker’s request, the legislative leaders would have approved and funded a 45-day period in which the governor could assemble a team of his choosing to review the Alaska LNG Project, and determine whether the new administration would need to renegotiate certain contractual terms. Speaker Chenault and President Meyer would have agreed to stop pursuing passage of HB 132. In exchange, they would insert budget language requiring Walker to return to the Legislature with a detailed plan for an alternative gasline project, in order to access the $200 million to fund his unspecified approach. Walker would have had to agree not to veto that budget language. Discussions concluded when Walker insisted on full access to the $200 million without further legislative approval and refused to provide a detailed project plan. “We sincerely hope discussions can continue, even with the Senate’s approval of HB 132,” Chenault said. “However, we simply cannot sacrifice public process...

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BOEM and BSEE- Arctic Specific Regulations
Apr09

BOEM and BSEE- Arctic Specific Regulations

Comments for Arctic Specific Regulations Needed The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) have released draft Arctic-specific regulations pertaining to oil and gas exploration and development in the Alaska Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The Alaska OCS has the potential to be an essential and integral part of the nation’s “all of the above” domestic energy strategy. The proposed Arctic-specific regulations focus solely on the OCS within the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. Action requested: This comment period, and upcoming BOEM decisions on Shell’s plans to explore its Chukchi leases this year, will play a crucial role in the feasibility and fate of Arctic exploration, and your voice is needed in support of reasonable regulations and decisions. Alliance members are encouraged to submit comments on the proposed regulations by May 27, 2015. Comments may be submitted online: http://www.regulations.gov In the search tab on the main page, enter BSEE-2013-0011, select the document, then “Submit a Comment.” By Mail, reference “Oil and Gas and Sulphur Operations on the Outer Continental Shelf-Requirements for Exploratory Drilling on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (1082-AA00).” Attention: Regulations and Standards Branch 381 Elden Street, HE3314 Herndon, VA 20170-4817 Points to consider for your comments: The draft regulations should be revised, taking into account the National Petroleum Council’s Arctic report. The Draft Arctic Regulations are not justifiable from a cost-benefit perspective. The Draft Arctic Regulations do not define a workable process pursuant to which an operator can apply to use equivalent technology to a Same Season Relief Rig (SSRR). The Draft Arctic Regulations will significantly complicate the permitting environment for the U.S. Arctic OCS by imposing redundant and potentially conflicting regulatory requirements on operators. The Integrated Operations Plan (IOP) requirement set forth in the Draft Arctic Regulations is redundant with existing requirements for Exploration Plans (EP). The Draft Arctic Regulations include a requirement for a Blow-Out Preventer (BOP) pressure test every seven days, which is not justifiable from a risk-based perspective as it unnecessarily increases the wear-and-tear on assets. Current BSEE regulations require a BOP test every 14 days. The Draft Arctic Regulations establish an early end of season date for drilling activities well in advance of the average onset of ice pack – cutting an already short operating season in the Arctic even shorter. Despite this move to limit season length in the Arctic OCS, the Draft Arctic Regulations do not provide any corresponding relief on the issue of lease terms. Comment deadline is May 27,...

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Shell’s Arctic drilling plans on track as Obama administration OKs lease sale
Apr09

Shell’s Arctic drilling plans on track as Obama administration OKs lease sale

Shell’s Arctic drilling plans on track as Obama administration OKs lease sale by Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Arctic, Politics/Policy   WASHINGTON — The Obama administration reaffirmed a 2008 government auction of Arctic drilling rights on Tuesday, delivering a major victory to Shell Oil Co. as it aims to resume exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea this summer. In validating the seven-year-old auction, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stressed that the Arctic “is an important component of the administration’s national energy strategy.” “We remain committed to taking a thoughtful and balanced approach to oil and gas leasing and exploration offshore Alaska,” Jewell said in a statement. “This unique, sensitive and often challenging environment requires effective oversight to ensure all activities are conducted safely and responsibly.” Related story: Feds propose Arctic drilling mandates The move illustrated anew the balancing act the Obama administration has taken toward oil and gas development amid steep environmental opposition, coming the same day the White House formally pledged greenhouse gas emission cuts ahead of international climate talks. It also marked the second time the Obama administration has affirmed the Chukchi Sea lease sale in response to a court order and a long-running legal challenge that began even before the auction took place in February 2008. The decision keeps the door open for Shell to return to the Chukchi Sea this summer and drill wells into its Burger Prospect about 70 miles from Alaska’s shoreline. It is far from the final regulatory step for Shell, which still must secure individual drilling permits and win the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s approval of its broad exploration plan. It is far from the final regulatory step for Shell, which still must secure individual drilling permits and win the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s approval of its broad exploration plan. But Jewell’s formal “record of decision” affirming the disputed lease sale was a critical hurdle for Shell’s 2015 Arctic ambitions. Most immediately, it allows the ocean energy bureau to begin formally reviewing Shell’s Arctic exploration plan as soon as a new version is filed with the agency. Once the bureau deems the plan complete, it has 30 days to decide on the drilling blueprint. “Above all, it means we can continue making plans to drill this summer,” said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith, though he noted that the company’s planned exploration program “remains contingent on achieving the necessary permits, legal certainty and our own determination that we are prepared to explore safely and responsibly.” The company’s previous Arctic venture, in 2012, was marred by mishaps, including higher-than-permitted air pollution from a drillship while in the Chukchi Sea and the beaching of its...

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