Oil, gas production in wildlife refuges is proven success

Guest Columnist

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 5:46am
  • Opinion

Did you know the National Audubon Society has earned more than $25 million in royalties by allowing oil and natural gas production in Louisiana’s Rainey Wildlife Refuge and Michigan’s Baker Sanctuary?

In fact, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey commissioned by Congressman Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, in 2001 reported 77 of 567 wildlife refuges in 22 states had oil and gas activities on their land in 2000, according to Arctic Power, the Alaskan group pushing for ANWR oil exploration.

Ironically, the Rainey refuge is the winter habitat for snow geese migrating from Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), while the Baker Sanctuary, a 900-acre wetland, provides hundreds of Sandhill cranes with a critical nesting area.

If drilling and exploration are safely done in existing wildlife refuges, why would it be an “environmental apocalypse” if a tiny portion of ANWR were opened to exploration? It would not.

Unfortunately, that fact was lost in the political head-butting between legendary Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Washington’s Sen. Maria Cantwell, first-term Democrat. While the battle was touted as a biblical David slaying Goliath, the information that really mattered never made it into the headlines and the sound bites.

In its rush to adjourn by Christmas, Congress brawled over process rather than substance. The process was a threatened filibuster of vital defense appropriation legislation because Stevens hung an ANWR amendment on the bill. His amendment would have allowed exploration on fewer than 2,000 acres of ANWR’s 19.6 million acres. The substance, which was never debated, was how we could supply much-needed energy for our nation in an environmentally compatible way.

Finally, many rightly argue that ANWR drilling should have been addressed in the comprehensive energy bill passed last spring. But the facts about the ANWR proposal were lost in a sea of political bravado, election-year maneuvering and the threat to cut off funding to our military.

All that is water over the dam, but there are three basic questions Congress should answer when, hopefully, it addresses the issue this year:

1. Oil and natural gas exploration already occurs safely in wildlife refuges. Which environmental safeguards from existing refuge production can be applied to ANWR?

2. ANWR drilling would occur during the winter and the icy roads would evaporate in the spring and summer months when caribou and other animals are in the coastal areas. How can improved road and drilling pad techniques from existing North Slope operations be applied?

3. Alaska North Slope technology now allows directional drilling up to eight miles from production pads. For example, Alpine, the latest production facility on the slope, is a 40,000-acre roadless oil field tapped by a single isolated 97-acre production pad accessible only by helicopter in the summer. How can energy experts apply the even newer technology to ANWR?

ANWR is America’s single greatest prospect for future domestic oil production. Experts estimate it contains 10 billion to 17 billion barrels of recoverable oil – enough to replace 58 years of Iraqi oil. But despite that, opponents continue to put forward arguments that have proven to be false.

Thirty years ago, they predicted that the Alaska Oil Pipeline would devastate caribou herds. They were wrong. Over the last three decades, the caribou population around Prudhoe Bay has skyrocketed from 3,000 to more than 27,000 animals. Despite that fact, opponents once again predict environmental disaster if we drill in ANWR. They are wrong again. There is no reason that the same compatibility with wildlife demonstrated at Prudhoe Bay would not extend to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Perhaps one way to ensure that compatibility is for Congress to set aside a portion of the royalties to ensure that wildlife protection is adequately funded. It works elsewhere, why not ANWR?

Don C. Brunell is president of the Association of Washington Business.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Why should the threat to Taiwan concern us in WA? | Brunell

Unfortunately, what happens in Taiwan doesn’t just stay in Taiwan — it… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Election 2021: Closer look at King County races | Roegner

The race for Mayor of Seattle will dominate the regional media, but… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Questions surround vaccine exemptions for state workers | Roegner

With about 4,800 state employees in 24 agencies requesting vaccine exemptions, which… Continue reading

Dr. Jayendrina Singha Ray serves as Faculty of English at Highline College. Her research interests include postcolonial studies, spatial literary studies, British literature, and rhetoric and composition. Prior to teaching in the U.S., she worked as an editor with Routledge and taught English at colleges in India.
What the Afghan wants to say: Arezo’s journey to America | Guest column

In our little Zoom room, I hear my interviewee break into sobs.… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Can a Texas-style abortion law happen in Washington? | Roegner

If politicians really want to anger women voters, the easiest way is… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Reasons to ban Gov. Jay Inslee’s natural gas ban | Brunell

Column: Switching from natural gas to electricity is complicated and will impact everyone.

William Shaw is General Manager of the Snoqualmie Valley Record. Contact: wshaw@valleyrecord.com.
Independent community journalism is crucial — now more than ever

During these times of change and division, the need to highlight what brings our community together is even stronger.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Vaccinations improve our health and employment numbers | Brunell

It is not surprising that COVID-19, which ravaged the world, was disastrous… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Firefighters vs. the governor’s vaccine mandate | Roegner

We all thought we were in this fight with the coronavirus together,… Continue reading

Providence employees look at anti-vaccine mandate protesters as they cross the street outside of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Aug. 18, 2021. Olivia Vanni/Sound Publishing
Editorial: A message to the unvaccinated and unmasked

We know you’re frustrated with mandates and advice, but consider our frustrations and, yes, our anger.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Back to the classroom during abnormal times | Roegner

If it didn’t feel so normal, we might forget about the coronavirus… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
What’s up with the real estate market? | Guest column

As we all know, the residential real estate market and prices have… Continue reading