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Alaska Inupiat Join In Support of ANWR Development


March 16, 2005

Washington, D.C. ­ Tuesday Senators Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski were joined by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and three members of the Alaska Inupiat community, Oliver Leavitt and Richard Glenn of Barrow and Desiree Kaveolook of Kaktovik, in support of drilling on the Arctic Coastal Plain.

jpg Oliver Leavitt of Barrow, Alaska

Oliver Leavitt , Vice President of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and a resident of Barrow, Alaska speaks in support of drilling on the Arctic Coastal Plan. Also pictured left to right: Desiree Kaveolook of of Kaktovik, Alaska, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Ted Stevens and Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici.
Photo courtesy Office of Sen. Ted Stevens

As the Senate debated the 2006 budget, Stevens and Murkowski held a press conference to encourage the Senate to keep the provision opening ANWR to oil and gas exploration in the budget. Supporters of opening ANWR say this language is crucial to having Congress keep its 1980 commitment to Alaska and to reducing the nation's dependence on foreign oil and increasing our nation's energy security. 

"I do believe that our dependence on foreign oil is a direct threat to our national security.  People fail to realize that our dependence on rogue states and militant nations makes us weak," stated Stevens.  "In 2004 we imported more than 60% of our oil from abroad. That is an increase of 33% since 1970.  Importing our energy from one unstable regime is a direct threat to our national security.  This dependence on outside sources makes our country vulnerable to whims of the rogue nations.  OPEC's decision to impose the 1973 oil embargo was retribution for our foreign policy in the Middle East war.  We must head the lessons of history.  Even today OPEC meets in Iran to decide the future of oil prices for the world."
audio mp3Listen to this ANWR news conference with comments from Sen. Stevens, Oliver Leavitt and Richard Glenn of Barrow, Desiree Kaveolook of Kaktovik, Secretary Gale Norton, Sen. Domenici and Sen. Lisa Murkowski. (MP3)

Senator Stevens was followed by Oliver Leavitt, Vice President of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and a resident of Barrow, Alaska.  Mr. Leavitt was joined by fellow Inupiat and Barrow resident Richard Glenn and Desiree Kaveolook, of Kaktovik. 

Mr. Leavitt led the group of Alaska Inupiat by stating "We believe in the development because at first we were opposed to construction of the pipeline.  We were afraid for the caribou because we were afraid it would impede its movement.  It has not, the caribou have flourishedThat shows that even with development that they can flourishWe have formed the North Slope Borough, we are vigilant in our development.  It has helped and our lives have changed.  We lived in third-world conditions until Prudhoe Bay was discovered and now we live a lot better."

"This land is not wilderness; our people have lived on the Arctic Slope region for countless generations So to type this land as wilderness is inaccurate.  And finally, we are aware that exploration can be done in a way that respects our environment.  We depend on fish and caribou for food, we depend on economic development for our infrastructure that helps improve our quality of life, so we want this balance of stewardship and development.  We don't roll over for development; we are vigilant about itif you watch the way development is done now it is done with out a mark.  So let's explore the Coastal Plain and find out what is there," said Glenn, Vice President of Lands for Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.  

jpg Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Senator Lisa Murkowski speaks in support of drilling on the Arctic Coastal Plan.
Photo courtesy Office of Senator Ted Stevens

One of the most poignant speakers was 18 year-old Desiree Kaveolook, a University of Alaska Fairbanks freshman.  Kaktovik is the only community the lies with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain, the area of ANWR proposed for oil exploration.  Ms. Kaveolook stated, "I live in Kaktovik, the only community that lies within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  The Alaska Federation of Natives, which supports thousands of Alaska Natives made a statewide resolution that supports oil exploration and development in ANWR.  Not only is AFN in support, but so are the North Slope Borough, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the native village of Kaktovik."   Ms. Kaveolook further stated that "With safe on-shore drilling there would be increased opportunities for today's youth [on the North Slope] such as scholarship opportunities, therefore allowing young people such as myself the opportunity to attend college and seek high education."

Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton continued to vocalize the support of President George Bush and the Bush Administration. "The Administration continues to strongly support the proposal to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal PlainThe President has spoken recently about this in context of the importance of energy for America's future," Norton said.  

Senate Energy Committee Chairman Peter Domenici (R-NM) recently led a tour of Senators and Cabinet officials to ANWR, Barrow and the NPR-A to see how the low-impact development of Alaska's resources would take place in ANWR.  It was significant to him to see that the ice roads and the directional drilling techniques kept the environmental impact to a minimum.  Senator Domenici was fervent in his statement that,  "I have concluded that the safest place in the world to produce oil and natural gas in an environmentally safe and sound way, is to do it in Alaska.  It is time to wake up.  It is time for America to wake up.  We are in a terrible, terrible predicament.  This country is now at the mercy of oil from over seas.  This is terrible dependence and it is growing worse.

Senator Lisa Murkowski echoed the statements of her colleagues and fellow Alaskans when she asked "At what point do we say that we as a nation are going to take responsibility for our energy and do what we can to bring about some energy security?  What about economic security?  The jobs that will be created, the jobs that will not be exported overseas by the exploration of our resource."  She further stated "And what about environmental security?  You have heard from the native peoples that live there.  They don't roll over for economic development.  Their children, my children who live in the state of Alaska demand appropriate environmental safeguards.  If we are going to drill, if we are going to produce up there we are only going to do it right."

Following the statements made by the Senators, the Alaska Inupiat and the Secretary of the Interior the group received a question regarding drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.  Senator Domenici and Secretary Norton expressed the opinion that the Congress would only support off-shore drilling in localities where the drilling was wanted.  Senator Stevens agrees with the position of the Administration.  Thus far the Bristol Bay Native Corporation is the only Alaska group that supports this form off drilling off their shores.  Senator Stevens supports their position and no other drilling in Alaska waters.


Source of News & Photographs:

Office of Senator Ted Stevens
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