Former military leaders fight on the side of lease sales in the Arctic

More than a dozen former military leaders jumped into a fight over offshore drilling in the Arctic yesterday, asking the Department of the Interior to allow lease sales in Alaska’s Arctic.

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Shell’s Polar Pioneer leaving Dutch Harbor on Oct. 12, heading for Washington state. (Photo by John Ryan, KUCB - Unalaska)
Shell’s Polar Pioneer leaving Dutch Harbor on Oct. 12, heading for Washington state. (Photo by John Ryan, KUCB – Unalaska)

The deadline is Thursday for groups to weigh-in on the interior department’s plan.

 

The military leaders said the U.S. is lagging behind other nations and could lose its economic and political foothold in the resource-rich region without new investments.

Gen. Joseph Ralston, formerly of the U.S. Alaskan Command, joined 15 other military veterans, and a former Secretary of Defense, asking for the Arctic leases to be kept in the plan. It covers the next five years.

“The idea that we would somehow take leasing from the Chukchi and the Beaufort Sea off the table while Russia is investing heavily, while Norway is drilling while Canada will be drilling just does not make sense from a national security perspective,” Ralston said.

The Interior Department has gotten deluged with comments. Nearly 200,000 have been logged since the agency first requested them in mid-March.

Some industry and pro-exploration groups fear the administration might drop the Arctic from its leasing plan. The agency is already proposing to drop similar lease sales in the Atlantic.

Michael LeVine is the Pacific Senior Council for Oceana, an ocean conservation organization based in Juneau.

He said private companies shouldn’t be responsible for the nation’s geopolitical ambitions.

“Certainly all of us in Alaska and in the environmental community are sensitive to the needs of national security and a sustainable energy future,” LeVine said. “If, however, we are depending on Shell and other companies for national security, we’re all in trouble.”

In the past six months, several companies, including Shell, have abandoned the leases they already hold in the region.