terms of the Native claims act Arctic Slope Regional Corp., the regional Native corporation, also obtained the subsurface mineral rights. ASRC, with Kaktovik’s cooperation, arranged for two oil companies, BP and Chevron, to drill an exploration well on the acreage in the early 1980s. The well was drilled—it is the KIC No. 1—and the results have been a tightly guarded secret ever since. The problem is that if there were a discovery, ASRC and Kaktovik could not develop it until Congress votes to open the area. The Inupiats regard this as underhanded— the government awarding lands under terms of the 1971 settlement but then denying the right to develop natural resources. Since then, Alaskans have made strenuous efforts to get Congress to approve the opening of ANWR’s coastal plain. Several times success was close. The U.S. House of Representatives has almost always supported ANWR exploration, with legislation passing the House 17 times over the years. The U.S. Senate is where the problem has been, and where environmental
groups focused their lobbying. Often the bills went down in defeat with votes being very close. One time a bill actually passed both the House and Senate, only to be vetoed by then-president Bill Clinton.
ANWR is now in the news again, having been attached to a bill with other energy provisions that was passed in the House by a vote of 237-187. It must now go to the Senate, where it awaits an uncertain fate. Meanwhile, though they were less noisy, similar fights were playing out far to the west the Colville River, which forms the eastern boundary of NPR-A (Congress changed its name in 1975 and transferred management from the Navy to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management). Unlike ANWR, the petroleum reserve has seen a lot of exploration over the years, though not that much, considering its sheer size. Most of the drilling was directed by the government and, arguably, wasn’t managed well. The Navy itself sponsored drill-
ing in the years following World War II, some of it by Navy Seabees. Operations weren’t particularly tidy. Exploration crews left old equipment parts, partly-filled fuel barrels and debris scattered across the tundra. Embarrassed, the government came in later with cleanup crews. However, some old petroleum reserve wells are still leaking fluids, a continuing problem for the BLM. Things changed when the reserve was finally opened to leasing by private companies. ARCO Alaska was an early explorer and drilled some costly dry holes. TOTAL, the French company, BP and other companies took a fling at explorations, all with no results. Drilling in the reserve was extremely expensive because of its remoteness and the difficulties of longdistant support by ice- and snow-roads, and by air. As the industry learned more about the geology, however, exploration became focused on the reserve’s more prospective northeast region. A series of small, but encouraging discoveries were made by ConocoPhillips,
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Published on Apr 1, 2012
Published on Apr 1, 2012
Alaska Business Monthly’s 2012 Corporate 100 annual special section begins on page 86. Top citizens of industry are highlighted in this annu...