November 7, 2017

Representative Rob Bishop, Chairman
U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources
United States House of Representatives
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Re: H.R. 4239, SECURE American Energy Act

Dear Chairman Bishop:

The Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc. (RDC) is writing to express its strong support for H.R. 4239, the “Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand American Energy Act (SECURE American Energy Act).

RDC is an Alaskan non-profit business association comprised of individuals and companies from state’s oil and gas, mining, forest products, fisheries and tourism industries.  RDC’s membership also includes all 12 land owning Alaska Native corporations, local communities, organized labor and industry-support firms.  RDC’s purpose is to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

Alaskans statewide strongly support oil and gas exploration and development in federal areas both onshore and offshore.  In fact, polling has consistently shown more than 70 percent of Alaskans support development of energy resources beneath the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) with overwhelming support for offshore development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Most local residents and the Inupiat people who actually live adjacent to these areas also support development. 

RDC is advocating for Alaska’s and our nation’s interests in supporting new energy development in the Arctic. It is estimated over 40 billion barrels of recoverable conventional oil may exist in Arctic Alaska, including the Outer Continental Shelf. With advances in technology, it is possible to develop onshore federal lands while directly utilizing on a tiny fraction of the area. 

Moreover, such development can be accomplished without significant disturbance to wildlife. In fact, over the past 40 years of North Slope oil production, wildlife populations have grown or remained stable.  One example at Prudhoe Bay shows the Central Arctic caribou population has grown from 5,000 animals in 1970 to more than 66,000 animals today.  

Similarly oil exploration and development offshore can proceed with minimal impact to the environment. Development of federal energy reserves in Arctic Alaska would provide a safe and secure source of oil for the nation for decades.  It would create tens of thousands of jobs throughout the country, generate billions of dollars in federal revenues and refill the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), existing critical energy infrastructure that is currently operating at only one-fourth capacity. Logistically since the ANWR coastal plain is only several miles from existing North Slope energy infrastructure and less than 60 miles from TAPS, development of energy reserves there would be one of the most efficient ways to increase oil production in Alaska. Likewise, new energy production in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) would boost TAPS throughput and also generate billions of dollars in revenue to the federal government. 

Despite robust oil production in the Lower 48 states today, America will require new supplies of energy from Alaska in the coming decades. Energy production from Alaska’s Arctic will be key to offsetting a projected decline in Lower 48 shale oil production, which is expected to occur in the next decade. Otherwise, America will be forced to once again increase its reliance on foreign oil. With new oil and gas production from the Arctic, America can continue to grow its economy and further reduce dependence on foreign imports. 

RDC supports provisions in H.R. 4239 that would encourage the private sector investment necessary to move forward with new exploration and development in the Arctic. Provisions encouraging regulatory certainty and expanded access to highly prospective areas would spur economic investment in federal lands, expand domestic energy production, create American jobs and increase revenues to both federal and state government. The bill would establish a framework for state revenue sharing to fairly compensate oil and natural gas producing states in the Alaska and Atlantic planning areas and ensures disbursement into future Gulf producing states. Such revenue sharing is absolutely critical in Arctic Alaska, where a lack of local community infrastructure exists.

RDC also supports provisions in H.R. 4239 that would require the execution of all approved, five-year plans, including scheduled offshore lease sales, should the Interior Secretary call for a revised plan. We also strongly support provisions streamlining unnecessary burdensome regulatory obstacles to make the stringent approval process more efficient. Specifically, RDC strongly supports provisions in the bill that would prevent implementation of excessive federal regulations, especially prohibiting the Interior Department from enforcing the Obama administration’s Arctic Rule. 

Unnecessary permitting delays, costly regulatory requirements, and uncertainty in the leasing process have discouraged both onshore and offshore federal energy exploration and development in Alaska over the past eight years. H.R. 4239 would help provide regulatory certainty and streamlines the permitting process to make federal lands and waters in Alaska and elsewhere a competitive and attractive place for industry to develop energy resources. 

In addition, H.R. 4239 would delegate regulatory authority to well-equipped states with established regulatory programs to manage oil and gas development within their borders. The legislation would eliminate a one-size-fits-all federal regulatory scheme. Delegating responsibilities recognizes the unique challenges in each state such as Alaska and eliminates uncertainty and significant costs arising from overly burdensome federal regulatory processes.

In conclusion, RDC strongly supports H.R. 4239. If enacted, this bill could ultimately create thousands of jobs, stimulate the economy, reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, and generate much-needed ongoing revenues to federal and state governments. 

Sincerely,

Resource Development Council