(While our attention is elsewhere… (Trump: orange or striped jumpsuit? Texas judge screws the ACA, Butina is going to testify? Mulvaney is chief of staff? )
…the dark business of deconstructing our protections continues unabated as corporate-friendly and extremist-backed rule-change proposals roll off the assembly line every day.)
Today, we’re asking you to write comments against drilling for oil in the federal waters off Alaska.
Trump tells us lots of fairy tales…Let’s tell one of our own. A future fairy tale…
Once upon a time, when there were bears as white as ice, high priests worshipped a dark power that dwelt below the earth, a power made of the very essence of what had ruled the earth before the history of man. The priests searched for help in their endless quest for this dark power, which, when restored to the surface, and harnessed to man’s desires, brought them great wealth. An alliance was made with those who ruled the upper lands, those who were the most venal and uncaring of the true nature of that the priests controlled. That alliance begat a ruler, who begat a beast of rules and laws, named for the insatiable dark power it craved.
And as this beast grew, it demanded sacrifice. Sacrifice of the animals of old. Sacrifice of the land. Sacrifice of the water. Sacrifice of the air. Sacrifice of the oldest, the youngest, and the weakest of mankind’s children. Sacrifice until all the dark power had returned, resting on the ground, floating in the oceans, flying with the winds, where it would change the very nature of the earth below and the heavens above. Sacrifice until even the richest and most powerful, gripping hard the dead magic of their wealth, were swept away. And the dark power returned to rule the upper lands, in a time again free of man.
And no one could say “The End”.
Trump’s brutal “American Energy Dominance” policy is the beast that’s been unleashed against us, and we’re asking you to stop this sacrifice to a tyrant’s greed. Deadline Dec. 17th, 11:59 EST.
- For those ready to go, here are the basics… The rule itself: “Oil and Gas Lease Sales: Outer Continental Shelf, Alaska Region, Beaufort Sea Program Area, Proposed 2019 Beaufort Sea Oil and Gas Lease Sale” – text here
- Good article for quick overall view here.
- Read other people’s comments for inspiration here.
- Comment here by Dec. 17 , 2018 11:59 PM ET.
This weekend, there were just over 300 comments on this issue. Today – there are over 2,318. WE NEED MORE!!! If we can’t stop this one, in this most pristine and dangerous environment filled with endangered species, it will be harder to stop any others.
For those who could use some background, here we go…
“Politicians need to be reminded, even as they do the bidding of the fossil fuel industry, that the rest of us are watching.” – Bill McKibben, climate activist and co-founder of 350.org
The Dark Power – “American Energy Dominance”
“We are a top producer of petroleum and the number-one producer of natural gas.… my administration will seek not only American energy independence that we’ve been looking for so long, but American energy dominance. …We will export American energy all over the world, all around the globe. To succeed, we must integrate every dimension of our national strength, and we must compete with every instrument of our national power. We cannot have obstruction. Since my very first day in office, I have been moving at record pace to cancel these regulations and to eliminate the barriers to domestic energy production.” – Trump
Our president has transmuted his payback to oil, gas and coal industry supporters into an actual plank of his National Security Strategy (NSS).
- “America will use its energy dominance to ensure international markets remain open, and that the benefits of diversification and energy access promote economic and national security.”
“Issues that may be viewed by others as environmental or even land-conservation matters will be seen by him and his associates as so many obstacles to national security and greatness.” (Nation – read this excellent article.)
LANGUAGE PATROL – THIS JUST IN: A federal appeals court has thrown out a power company’s permit to clearcut a swath the width of a freeway and build a natural gas pipeline across two national forests and the Appalachian Trail. From Aaron Ruby, spokesman for Dominion Energy: “If allowed to stand, this decision will severely harm consumers and do great damage to our economy and energy security.”
The Dark Power merges with our government
“Achieving American energy dominance begins with recognizing that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves. For too long America has been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. The Department is committed to an America-first energy strategy.” – Interior Secretary and oil industry shill Ryan Zinke.
“We want to make the BLM a better business partner for the oil and gas industry.” – Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) acting director Michael Nedd –
Here are some highlights of the massive, little-regulated explosion of oil, natural gas and coal production, designed to make this country the world’s foremost dirty energy powerhouse…
- Here’s an great resource that shows the overall “Dominance” battle plan, including the site in Alaska we’re commenting on.
- Trump fast-tracked the Dakota Access oil pipeline, 4 days after his inauguration. Its leaks are starting to add up. The Keystone Pipeline had a 210,000 gal. leak in 2017.
- Almost 300 federal regulations specifically related to energy production and environmental protection affecting public health, worker safety, tribal sovereignty and the climate rescinded, withdrawn, or otherwise stalled by mid 2017.
- The EPA undid the Clean Power Plan, with the help of our newest FERC board member, Bernard McNamee.
- The EPA eliminated rules that regulated coal ash waste, required oil and gas companies to report and repair methane emissions, and limited toxic emissions from major industrial polluters. (Comment on methane rules here! Same deadline)
- The EPA took down information on climate change from its website for an “update”, it seemed uncertain whether it will ever reappear. In April last year, the EPA replaced its online climate change section with a holding page that said the content was being updated to “reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump”. This is what Indivisible Ventura found today – here, here and here.
- Trump revoked Obama-era executive orders on climate change.
- The Interior Department lifted a moratorium on new leases on federal lands, reversing six straight years of decline in U.S. coal production by the end of 2017.
- The BLM homepage got switched to a picture of coal.
- The BLM changed its oil and gas leasing policy this year to limit public comment and environmental reviews, accelerate permitting, and expand leasing — making six times the amount of public land available compared to two years ago. As a result, the number of oil and natural gas wells on lands administered by the Interior Department increased by 85% from 2016 to 2017.
- BLM official in New Mexico admitted that his team lacks the resources to enforce the rules that remain, and locals report increasing violations that include oil spills. Even back in 2014, the BLM failed to inspect more than half of high risk oil and gas wells.
- The misinformation campaign is in full swing.
Long, slow, domestic terrorism…
“Climate change disrupts everything, including Trump’s agenda.” – Alice Hill, a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution think tank
- Despite the president’s promised benefits of “American energy dominance” such as lower costs for U.S. consumers, the price of gasoline has been rising since 2016. Thanksgiving drivers paid the highest pump prices in four years. After falling for two years, the price of electricity in 2017 was the highest in nearly 20 years, with 2018 on track to surpass it. And in place of “freedom from dependence on foreign oil,” U.S. imports of oil and natural gas are on the rise.” (LATimes)
According to the governments own reports ((2018 Arctic Report Card, Fourth National Climate Assessment), the blackouts, heat waves, monster hurricanes, flooding and endless fires are bringing pollution, physical danger, economic and financial disaster right to the doorstep of every American.
The estimates of damage are rising. New research shows that over 300,000 homes face flooding every two weeks within the next 30 years and 13.1 million Americans could lose their homes to sea level rise by 2100. Islands, such as the Tangier Islands in the Chesapeake Bay, could be entirely consumed by rising sea levels by 2050, or sooner. Even minor climate change-caused flooding leads to road closures, plumbing failure, and other significant daily disruptions. Meanwhile, the industry most responsible for climate warming does not absorb the economic costs of it.
- Across the United States, every element of the country’s energy infrastructure, like oil wells, coal power plants and nuclear power plants, will be stressed by droughts, heat waves, rising seas and fiercer storms.
- Before Trump, the Pentagon recognized that climate change threatened national security. By dismissing climate change, Trump is creating a less stable, less secure international system and potentially putting U.S. troops and civilians in harm’s way.
- Potential health risks are estimated to rise significantly due to higher temperatures and complications of natural disasters. An estimated additional 250,000 people will die every year between 2030 and 2050 as a result of these health risks, according to the World Health Organization.
- Climate change-induced malnutrition could affect nearly half a million adults globally by 2050 due to food and nutrition scarcity.
- The economies of the states in the South, Midwest, and mid-Atlantic are expected to suffer from predicted gross domestic product losses of up to 28 percent due to greenhouse-gas emissions effects on field production.
- A potential decline in profit for marine fisheries globally, which have been estimated to support the livelihoods of 10 to 12 percent of the world’s population.
- Rising climate disruption could bring about new global poverty, possibly resulting in an “additional 100 million people living in extreme poverty by 2030.”
- Species’ failure to adapt to human-caused environmental changes will result in extinction and many species’ disappearance. Other species, such as birds in North America and sea animals, will change habitats over the next several decades.
- Entirely new climates and weather patterns introduced to ecosystems will cause a shuffling of biodiversity and animal communities.
OK, now back to the Beaufort Sea…
“American energy dominance is good for the economy, the environment, and our national security. Responsibly developing our resources, in Alaska especially, will allow us to use our energy diplomatically to aid our allies and check our adversaries. That makes America stronger and more influential around the globe.” – Zinke.
Back in October, Zinke announced the approval of Hilcorp Energy to drill for oil six miles off the Alaskan coast in the shallow waters of the Beaufort Sea. He touted the President Trump’s “American energy dominance” agenda that promotes the widespread development and production of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. If the development by Hilcorp Energy moves forward, it would be the first oil and gas production facility in federal waters in Alaska.
Hilcorp, based in Houston, plans to build a nine-acre gravel island about 20 miles east of Prudhoe Bay, not far from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Liberty Project (sigh…) proposes to tap into a reservoir of oil on the state’s North Slope, containing as much as 150 million barrels. The project is expected to take two years to complete, produce up to 70,000 barrels a day at peak production about two years after it begins, with “a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years,” according to the project’s website.
“Opening the Arctic to offshore oil drilling is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Kristen Monsell, ocean legal director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This project sets us down a dangerous path of destroying the Arctic.”
Maps of the proposed leasing area
Here is the map from BOEM to show the overall area of proposed drilling.
Here is the map from BOEM to show areas they consider environmentally important.
Closeup map of migration area from protectarcticeplaces.org.
Map of proposed island and pipeline system from Hilcorp Energy.
When you look at the maps:
This project is not just an offshore oil-drilling rig. The artificial island, associated onshore facilities and activities to support the project would include:
- Ice roads: from 30′ to 120′ wide (!!!) (Pg. 2-4) HAK would utilize ground vehicles (heavy duty diesel trucks, light duty diesel pickup trucks, trimmers, tractors, loaders, and excavators, etc.) during periods when ice roads can be constructed and used, discharge of fill into jurisdictional wetlands
- Gravel pads: They intend to mine gravel from 25 acres of land, making a 46′ x 60′ deep pit. (pg. 2-9), discharging the fill into jurisdictional wetlands. This mine will forever scar the landscape and provide a dangerous hazard to wildlife for at least a year. The EIR claims that when it’s no longer needed, it is be flooded and filled in. (2-21). However, if an operator like Hilcorp Energy decides that they’re losing money on this project, they can walk away. Or skimp, like they did on their Cook’s Inlet project.
- Ice pads: 350 feet by 700 feet, discharge of fill into jurisdictional wetlands
- A hovercraft shelter and small boat dock.
- Pipeline landfall trench, 1.4 acres, discharge of fill into jurisdictional wetlands
- All wastewater goes into the Stefansson Sound. This includes sanitary and domestic wastewater, potable water treatment reject water, seawater treatment plant wastewater, construction dewatering wastewater, secondary containment dewatering wastewater (P. 2-14)
- Portion of pipeline located in territorial seas, totaling 4.5 miles and 33 acres, discharge of fill below mean high tide in navigable waters (Beaufort Sea) )P. 2-27)
Resources from BOEM
- Liberty Development and production plan – Final Environmental Impact Statement (Vol 1) (Alternatives, Descriptions, Cumulative effects)
- Liberty Development and production plan – Final Environmental Impact Statement (Vol 2), (Animals, oil spills, economic impacts)see especially page 41, 45
- Appendix A – Oil Spill analysis
- BOEM – Hilcorp Alaska LLC – About the Liberty Project
- 2019 Beaufort Sea OCS Oil and Gas Lease Sale here.
- Environment Program office
- Leasing and Plans
- Resource Evaluation (resource = oil and gas only)
- Tribal and Community Liaison
Resources on threatened animals.
- Polar Bears Threatened: Million Of Acres To Be Opened To Oil And Gas Activities (Science Daily)
- Supreme Court Rejects Oil Industry Challenge to Endangered Species Protection for Bearded Seals (bearded seals) (Center for Biological Diversity)
- The environmental impact of roads in wilderness areas (environmentalscience.org)
Effects of Roads on Ecological Conditions (nap.edu) (serious resource)
- Assessing large-scale wildlife responses to human infrastructure (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.)
- Zinke Moves to Build Road Through an Alaskan Wilderness Area (sierraclub.org)
- Noise from offshore oil and gas surveys can affect whales up to 3km away (conversation)
Who is Hilcorp Energy and can they be trusted?
“If Hilcorp can’t even stop a gas leak under the ice in Cook Inlet, then it has no business drilling its Liberty Project in the Arctic, where sea conditions are even more treacherous. BOEM doesn’t care what goes on elsewhere. They just hide behind their own jurisdiction.” – – Miyoko Sakashita, ocean program director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a release.
Shortest version of answer: NO!
Slightly longer TL;DR version: Hilcorp Energy is a company known for violating regulations and is responsible for multiple safety and environmental violations (record here), including ruptured underwater pipelines which released between 200,000 and 300,000 cubic feet methane a day from their Cook Inlet installation late December until April 13, into an area inhabited by endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) and other marine mammals and fish. The number of beluga whales in the region has declined from 1,300 individuals in 1979 to just 349 in 2014.
Got a little time?: Read full investigation here from the Center for Biological Diversity – especially parts I, II and V. Well written and interesting.
- Part I: Hilcorp Runs Aground (Cook Inlet, off Alaska)
- Part II: Hilcorp: Putting Lives in Danger (Cook Inlet, off Alaska)
- Part III: Oysters vs. Oil: Hilcorp’s Bayou Battle
- Part IV: Hilcorp’s Oil Spills Stain Louisiana Marshlands and Rivers
- Part V: Hilcorp Alaska Avoids Fines for Cook Inlet Methane Leak
- Report provides the first detailed account of the illegal and environmentally destructive practices at Endicott. (eisalaska.net)
- More here on Hilcorp Energy ‘s proven behavior from EcoWatch.
- More here on Hilcorp Energy ‘s proven behavior from UPI.com
- BP Alaska launches safety reset after string of injuries and leaks (adn.com)
- Gov. Bill Walker had to intervene to force Hilcorp to shut down offshore oil production on the eastern side of Cook Inlet because either state nor federal regulators did. (thecordovatimes.com)
- Accidents Spew Oil and Gas Pollution in Alaska as Trump Looks to Expand Arctic Drilling (Truthout)
- Company behind massive pipeline leak wants to drill in the Arctic. (Center for Biological Diversity)(insideclimate)
- Cause and scope of Hilcorp spill still unknown (adn.com)
- Spill discovered after impact, unrelated to natural gas leak (adn.com)
Can the Beaufort Sea be safely drilled at all?
In Dec. of 2016, Obama said that the Beaufort Sea and the entire Chukchi Sea was off-limits to drilling per “the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region’s harsh conditions is limited.
Conservation group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned against offshore drilling in the Beaufort Sea, following BOEM’s call for nominations for a proposed lease sale off Alaska. Following BOEM’s announcement, Margaret Williams, WWF’s managing director of U.S. Arctic programs, said: “Any step to open America’s Arctic Ocean to dangerous offshore drilling not only threatens the region’s marine wildlife and coastal communities, it also risks the ecological future of the Arctic itself.
“At a time when the world is embracing clean, renewable energy like never before, the last thing we need to do is intensify exploration for fossil fuels – especially in the unforgiving waters of the Arctic Ocean.”
Are you ready to find out if the pen is mightier than the drill?
- The rule itself: “Oil and Gas Lease Sales: Outer Continental Shelf, Alaska Region, Beaufort Sea Program Area, Proposed 2019 Beaufort Sea Oil and Gas Lease Sale” – text here
- Read other people’s comments for inspiration here.
- Comments due by Dec. 17, 2018 11:59 PM EST. Comment here
Tips on commenting:
- Many people wonder if their response are helpful or are even counted at all. The government has put out this tip sheet on taking your best shot. Here’s the gist:
- Read and understand the regulatory document you are commenting on
- Feel free to reach out to the agency with questions.
- Be concise but support your claims.
- Base your justification on sound reasoning, scientific evidence, and/or how you will be impacted.
- Address trade-offs and opposing views in your comment.
- There is no minimum or maximum length for an effective comment.
- The comment process is not a vote – one well supported comment is often more influential than a thousand form letters.
- You can attach on-line articles or quote them in your response.
- You can submit anonymously or with your name and as many times as you can.
Read other people’s comments for inspiration here. If you see one that appeals to you, copy it and alter it to make it sound like your voice. Use online sources to help as necessary.
Examples from (1) sentence to multi-paragraph.
Comment: Leave the Beaufort Sea off-limits.
Comment: The alternative I would like is #2 (No Action): “Under this Alternative, the Proposed Action would not be approved and the actions described in the Liberty DPP would not take place. No oil and gas resources would be extracted from the Liberty unit at this time, and none of the negative or positive impacts that would be attributable to the Proposed Action would be realized. Implementation of this alternative would not require any regulatory authorizations or permits from any of the Cooperating Agencies on this EIS.”
You are proposing to create a man-made island that will add sound, light and water pollution along with all the scarring ancillary landside features to one of the most unspoiled areas in the world to satisfy the deluded “energy dominance” program of an president who thinks we will be able to bribe or buy our way out of any foreign difficulties. Climate change played a part in 5000 refugees showing up at our border, and no amount of oil sales to their home country would have stopped it.
Comment: I stand in opposition to the proposed 2019 offshore oil and gas lease sales in the U.S. Arctic’s Beaufort Sea.
The Arctic is one of the most diverse and environmentally significant regions on the planet. The region is home to many important marine animals, including beluga whales, polar bears, seals, walrus, migratory birds, and fish. Offshore drilling in this pristine environment would not only jeopardize sensitive marine ecosystems, but also the communities and species that rely on its continued abundance. There is no proven way to clean up oil spilled in sea ice. Unless and until we can prove that drilling in the Arctic Ocean can be done safely, it is a risk we simply cannot afford to take. We urge the immediate reconsideration of the irresponsible 2019 Beaufort Sea Lease Sale.
Comment: Keep the Beaufort Sea and its polar bears need to remain off limits to drilling.
Comment: I am strongly opposed to the proposal to resume leasing areas of Alaskas Beaufort Sea to oil drilling. It would put coastal communities at risk and deepen Americas dependence on fossil fuels. Our money and energy is much better spent developing renewable sources of energy.
Comment: When will we take seriously our responsibility to preserve this planet and the people who live on it? This proposal to open up more of the Beaufort Sea area to oil drilling is wrong on so many grounds – not the least of which is the potential for polluting the waters with oil spills ( which WILL occur…look at our history!) Please… stand up for what is right… and what will support our planet for many generations to come. This plan puts many coastal communities at risk, and just continues the pattern of dependence on fossil fuels. Please… for the sake of our beautiful waters… our children… our grandchildren…do not allow this to happen!
Comment: I am extremely concerned about opening up this environmentally sensitive area to oil and coastal drilling. I am also concerned of the impact this will have on the fishing industry. We should be moving away from a dependence on fossil fuels toward more renewable sources in order to protect our planet from the impacts of global climate change.
Comment: I am opposed to any additional drilling for oil anywhere in Alaska, including the Beaufort Sea. This plan for drilling puts coastal communities at risk, as well as negatively impacting the environment. Further, this action will further deepen the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels. Energy companies should be looking towards sustainable energy solutions instead of continuing to depend on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are on their way out; it is a waste of money and not worth destroying the environment to satisfy a few greedy oil companies, most of whom are probably cronies of Trump and Scott Pruitt.
Comment: Please leave the Beaufort Sea off-limits to oil drilling. Coastal communities would be put at risk and it would deepen America’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Opening the Beaufort sea to oil and gas drilling is irresponsible and dangerous. The BOEM’s request for proposals attempts to fast-track leases to the oil industry without full, fair and open debate.
Comment: Any step to open America’s Arctic Ocean to dangerous offshore drilling not only threatens the region’s marine wildlife and coastal communities, it also risks the ecological future of the Arctic itself. In 2016 the White House concluded that “even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region’s harsh conditions is limited. By contrast, it would take decades to fully develop the production infrastructure necessary for any large-scale oil and gas leasing production in the regionat a time when we need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels.”
Scientific opinion, common sense and respect for natural resources all scream against opening the Beaufort Sea to drilling. We need sustainable energy development now and to end fossil fuel development yesterday!
Comment (from Indivisible Santa Barbara): I oppose Hilcorp Alaska’s Liberty project, which would be the first major offshore drilling project entirely in federal Arctic waters. The potential for disaster with Arctic offshore drilling is significant. A major oil spill in these sensitive waters would impact endangered species like polar bears and bowhead whales. Alaskan oil industry regulators have repeatedly fined Hilcorp for safety violations and have noted that “disregard for regulatory compliance is endemic to Hilcorp’s approach to its Alaska operations.” Moreover, the bipartisan National Commission on BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling strongly criticized Trump’s efforts to roll back safety regulations. I agree with the Commission’s recommendations that the science of the Arctic must become better known, that native communities must be fully consulted, and that better investment in spill containment and response must be required. Finally, drilling and burning all the recoverable oil and gas in the Arctic could release 14.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere and oceans.
Comment (from Chop Wood, Carry Water): Hello, my name is ____ and I am a concerned citizen from _____.
I’m writing to demand that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management rescind their proposal to open up the Beufort Sea and the rest of the Alaskan coast and outer continental shelf to lease areas for offshore drilling.
Offshore drilling is highly destructive, and adding more fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions will lead to climate collapse, meaning increased droughts, wildfires, deadly storms, flooding, and other natural disasters. This means that having more offshore drilling is incredibly deadly to our nation.
Besides climate change, offshore drilling off the Alaskan coast is dangerous because of the nature of the Arctic Ocean itself. Should an accident occur, clean-up and rescue would be extremely difficult or even impossible due to frigid waters and the movement of sea ice. Because of these factors, having offshore drilling off Alaska would be impractical.
For these reasons, I demand that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Department of the Interior, and the Trump administration rescind their decision and end all offshore drilling and fossil fuel extraction and usage, alongside other greenhouse gas emissions, within the United States.