14 JUL 1976
Materials Related to Alaska Delegation
to Democratic National Convention:
Beaufort Sea/Arctic Policy Resolution
To: The Press
From: Mayor Eben Hopson
While in New York to attend the Democratic National Convention, I thought that I would use this opportunity to get some help with our problems with the Beaufort Sea, which we share with Canada.
I am depending upon the journalists to report the story of what is happening in the Canadian Beaufort, and its implications for the United States and the other Arctic coastal nations, the USSR, Norway, and Denmark (Greenland).
I would be glad to respond to any questions. I can be reached through the Alaska Delegation at the UN Plaza Hotel, or in my room at this hotel, Phone 355-3400, ext. 3311. Or you can reach me through my Assistant, Jon Buchholdt, 355-3400, ext . 2901.
I would appreciate any help you can give us on this. It is an important story that needs to be told.
Resolution of the Alaska Delegation
RESOLUTION CALLING ATTENTION
TO THE PRESENT DANGER
TO THE BEAUFORT SEA, AND THE NEED
FOR A STRONG NATIONAL ARCTIC POLICY
WHEREAS Alaska’s coastline makes up over fifty percent of the entire United States’ coastal area, and makes the United States an important Arctic coastal nation which shares the Beaufort Sea coast with Canada and the Chukchi Sea coast with the USSR; and
WHEREAS the entire Arctic circumpolar coast is rich in such energy resources as oil, natural gas and coal, many of the reserves of which lie offshore in the Arctic shelf, and these resources are badly needed by all of the people of the United States; and
WHEREAS the Arctic environment poses severe problems for environmentally safe and responsible energy resource development, and the environmental dangers of Arctic offshore oil and gas exploration and production are particularly profound; and
WHEREAS the Canadian government has issued the first drilling permit for a Arctic outer-continental shelf exploration in the Beaufort Sea just across the U.S./Canadian border in the Mackenzie Bay; and
WHEREAS the oil industry has not developed environmental safeguard technology adequate to the dangers of the Arctic ice environment of the Beaufort Sea, and the newly-approved Canadian Beaufort Sea exploration project would not have been approved for the American Beaufort because of lack of adequate technology and environmental safeguards; and
WHEREAS by securing Canadian approval for the Mackenzie Bay drilling project, the oil industry has successfully contravened American Arctic environmental safeguards by endangering the American Beaufort Sea coast and waters which are downstream from the Mackenzie Bay in the powerful Beaufort gyre; and
WHEREAS the United States appears to have no clear Arctic domestic and foreign policy assuring safe and responsible Arctic offshore resource development, and the Canadian Beaufort Sea Arctic shelf explorations beginning this summer point to the need for a strong American Arctic policy;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the full membership of the Alaska delegation to the 39th Democratic National Convention in caucus this date call upon the Democratic Party and the Democratic Presidential nominee to pursue and develop solutions to the present danger to the Beaufort Sea from premature offshore drilling planned this summer in the Canadian Beaufort, and to press for international agreements assuring that all circumpolar Arctic offshore oil and gas operations are conducted according to a single set of rules to insure environmentally safe and responsible operations.
UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTED THIS 13th DAY OF JULY 1976
…(signed) Governor William A. Egan, Chairman
12 JUL 1976
Letter to the Hon. Jimmy Carter,
Americana Hotel, 801 Seventh Avenue,
New York, New York. From Eben Hopson.
Dear Governor Carter:
As you work over the coming months to organize our new national administration, I hope that you will remember the Arctic as a region that needs your help and leadership. I feel that no other region in the world is more important to the future of America. but, strangely, no other region has been more neglected by our national domestic and foreign policies. This neglect must stop. I’m hoping that the Carter administration will distinguish itself by a strong national Arctic Policy.
As a former nuclear submarine commander, you already know the strategic military importance of the Arctic. My home, Barrow, is the site of a powerful communications facility enabling radio communication with our submarines submerged beneath the Arctic ice pack. The chances are that one of these submarines might have been yours. If so, we both have navigated the Beaufort Sea, waters that too many Americans know too little about.
If you have navigated the Arctic, I don’t have to tell you about the ice; you know about the awesome power and force of the ice. I don’t have to explain, either, about the unforgiving Arctic environment, and its delicately-balanced ecology.
I am told that you have distinguished yourself by your love for the land, and for your leadership in its protection. We need this leadership to help us with our problem in the Beaufort Sea. Canada has begun the development of the Arctic shelf in the Beaufort Sea just over our border in the Mackenzie Bay.
In securing Canadian government permission for the Dome Petroleum Company’s Mackenzie Bay exploratory drilling project, the oil industry has successfully contravened American Arctic environmental safeguards.
There is only one Beaufort Sea, and Prudhoe Bay and Mackenzie Bay are both part of the same Beaufort Sea. The whale, the seal, and the polar bear that I hunt are the same that our people hunt in the Canadian Beaufort. The migratory birds that are protected by international treaty nest along the Beaufort Sea coast. And the ice that covers the Beaufort is a huge reservoir of pure water, undirtied by the soiled atmosphere of modern industrial society.
We Eskimo number no more than 100,000 living under four flags across the Arctic from Siberia to Greenland. We are a closely-kindered circumpolar community. Many of our people in Canada and Greenland have told me about their worry and concern over the oil industry’s plans for offshore development in the Canadian Beaufort, and in the Davis Strait off the southwest coast of Greenland. I’m told that the oil industry’s plans for the Spitzbergen shelf are causing the USSR to worry.
There is a reason to worry.
We worry because of the ice. No man-made thing that I have heard about can withstand the force of the constantly-moving Beaufort Sea ice floes. And while it may be possible to drill in the outflow of the Mackenzie River for the three summer months, with great risk, the oil industry has not yet developed the means to take oil and gas out from under the ice. We wonder about the wisdom of risking severe Arctic environmental damage from offshore Beaufort Sea exploration when extraction technology has not yet been designed or tested. The Beaufort Sea environment is not one in which any degree of offshore industrial experimentation should be permitted. There is no margin for error. Canadian scientists have told me that it would take up to 24 months to stop the unrestricted flow of oil into the Arctic Ocean if a blowout were to occur with the Dome Petroleum project. Because of the powerful clock-wide Beaufort gyre, Alaska is downstream from this ill-timed project.
Recently, the American government scientists working in the Alaska Outer-Continental Shelf (OCS) program met in Seattle with the Canadian scientists who worked in the Canadian Beaufort Sea Project, a recently-concluded five-year environmental impact assessment. I attended this Beaufort Sea Conference last month and learned that the Canadian scientists had recommended against the approval of the Dome Petroleum project, and they agreed that reliable environmental safeguards are impossible in the Beaufort Sea using available technology. It is clear that the oil industry has secured permission to conduct offshore Beaufort Sea operations that would never pass muster in the American Beaufort.
I feel that if the oil industry is to become able to take oil and gas out from under the ice without destroying my Arctic homeland, it must be encouraged and assisted to develop adequate technology, and the industry must be held to a single set of rules for all Arctic oil and gas development in all Arctic territorial waters.
We Eskimo think strongly enough about this threat that we have agreed to hold the first Inuit Circumpolar Conference during the last week of this coming November, in Barrow. Some 60 representatives from Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, and Siberia will attend, along with observers from all five Arctic coast nations. I would like you to come to this conference to learn for yourself how we, who have always lived in the Arctic, feel about the plans of the oil industry for Arctic offshore oil and gas operations. We hope that our Inuit Circumpolar Conference will initiate dialogue between the five Arctic coastal nations necessary to lead to formal agreements necessary for safe and responsible Arctic oil and gas development.
Since I learned of Canada’s Beaufort Sea outer-continental shelf program last April, I have tried to bring the danger to the Beaufort Sea to national attention. You can help with this, of course. I’m hoping for your assistance in securing the inclusion of an Arctic Policy plank in the Democratic Party platform. And, if you could draw public attention to the danger to the Beaufort Sea, and our need for a strong national Arctic Policy, that would be very helpful.
You know, we in the North Slope Borough depend upon the Beaufort Sea for our subsistence. Our food chain is being threatened. This is a very important matter for us in Alaska and Canada. But the protection of the Beaufort Sea is also important to all of the people of America and Canada. I hope that you will preside over the solution to this problem.
I appreciate your attention to this request at this busy time. I’ve been encouraged to believe that you will help. Thank you.
Sincerely yours, …(signed) Eben Hopson, Mayor
FOR ARCTIC POLICY LANGUAGE
FOR DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM
(Paragraph to be added to the World Environment section, pages 55-56)
The development of offshore oil and gas reserves in the Beaufort Sea, and elsewhere in the Arctic, will require a high level of international agreement if the severe Arctic environmental degradation is to be avoided. The Beaufort Sea will be the first test of our resolve to protect the world environment. We call for the development of clear national domestic and foreign Arctic policy able to assure safe and responsible circumpolar Arctic resource development.