In this Dec. 19, 2017 photo, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks about oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during debates about the GOP tax cut on the floor of the U.S. Senate. (C-SPAN)

In this Dec. 19, 2017 photo, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks about oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during debates about the GOP tax cut on the floor of the U.S. Senate. (C-SPAN)

State asks Legislature for $10 million to survey ANWR for oil

The administration of Gov. Bill Walker is asking the Alaska Legislature for permission to spend $10 million on seismic surveying in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The seismic survey funding was included as part of a supplemental spending request delivered by the state to the Legislature last week. The request, which totals $26 million in additional costs, is to be folded into ongoing work on the state’s operating and capital budgets for fiscal year 2019.

The Senate Finance Committee heard a presentation Monday on the supplemental request, including the funding. State officials said the money would be used to provide better information about the oil and gas below the surface of the little-surveyed coastal plain. The request comes at a critical time for ANWR, the federal government, and for the state, which is grappling with a $2.5 billion annual deficit.

In December, Congress approved a federal budget that calls for oil and gas lease sales in the coastal plain. Estimates by the Department of Interior to Congress indicate as much as $2.2 billion could be earned from the sales of oil and gas leases there. Half of that money would go to the state.

That amount could be increased if the surveys turned up good results.

“Even a small uptick in participation, we would recapture any of the costs we would put in at this point,” Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack said.

Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, said that if that’s the case, “I’m looking at $10 million and wondering if that’s enough. … I don’t know if we’re ever going to get back there again.”

“I agree, it’s a one-shot deal here,” Mack responded, saying that the first lease sale in ANWR is likely to be the biggest.

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, pointed out that the state’s plan isn’t a zero-risk scenario. If surveys turn up no oil, or oil in smaller amounts than expected, it could actually decrease demand for leases.

“If you were to lease without that knowledge, sometimes folks will take that risk believing that entire area may have the potential,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Alaska has tried to encourage ANWR drilling with seismic surveys. In 2013, then-Gov. Sean Parnell (with help from then-DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan) proposed spending $50 million of state money on seismic surveying in ANWR — if the federal government participated as a partner.

The Department of the Interior, then controlled by an appointee of President Barack Obama, declined to do so, and the idea died.

John Hendrix is the former general manager of Apache, an independent oil company, and now works as an oil and gas adviser to Walker.

By phone on Monday, he said seismic surveying isn’t cheap. “In the Arctic, where there’s no roads, it could cost anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 per square mile.”

At those rates, $10 million isn’t a lot of money. For that reason, the state would likely to buy into a partnership with other groups or smaller oil companies to complete a larger survey.

Pitney, speaking to the Empire after Monday’s hearing, said that larger survey would cost much more than the $10 million the administration is prepared to spend right now.

“My understanding a seismic shoot could be as much as $100 million but maybe as little as $60 (million),” she said.

Pitney said the state has been talking with potential partners but does not yet have any agreements.

Hendrix said the cost is high, but he said it makes sense for the state to take a look, then made an analogy to Southeast Alaska.

“It’s just like a fisherman: Would you find a fisherman out there without a sonar?” he asked. “This is just to get the conversation going.”

 


 

• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.

 


 

More in News

A bucket of recently caught sockeye salmon rests on the sand while anglers seek to fill it further at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Dipnetting in Kasilof opens Tuesday

Dipnetting will be allowed at all times until Aug. 7

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Fish and Game restricts bait on Kasilof, Ninilchik Rivers

The use of bait on the rivers will begin Friday and extend to July 15 in Ninilchik, July 31 in Kasilof

A man fishes in the Kenai River on July 16, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/file)
Slow sockeye fishing on Kenai, Russian Rivers

Northern Kenai Fishing Report for June 20

Alaska Department of Fish and Game logo. (Graphic by Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Bag limits doubled for sockeye salmon in Resurrection Bay

The increase is effective from June 21 to July 31

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Girl Scout Troop 210, which includes Caitlyn Eskelin, Emma Hindman, Kadie Newkirk and Lyberty Stockman, present their “Bucket Trees” to a panel of judges in the 34th Annual Caring for the Kenai Competition at Kenai Central High School on Thursday, April 18.
Caring for the Kenai winners receive EPA award

Winning team of the 34th annual Caring for the Kenai was selected for the President’s Environmental Youth Award

Norm Blakely speaks to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly approves resolution guiding efforts to increase voter turnout

The Voter Turnout Working Group was established to explore options and ideas aimed at increasing voter participation

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Update: Bodies of 2 men retrieved from submerged plane in wake of reported Moose Pass crash

A pair of hikers witnessed and reported the crash around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, trooper say

Alaska Department of Transportation Commissioner Ryan Anderson speaks during a town hall meeting on the use of brine on Kenai Peninsula roads, in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Chambers in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, June 17, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Brine use reduced by 69% this winter, further changes possible

Department of Transportation holds town hall to report back on winter brine use, collect feedback

Most Read