01 NOV 1976
Hopson’s Address to the People of Kodiak
and the User’s Panel,
OSC-Environmental Assessment Program
It is a source of satisfaction for me to be able to conclude my Congressional campaign here in Kodiak and attend a meeting of the Users’ Panel that is overseeing the work of the Alaskan Outer-Continental Shelf Environmental Assessment Program. This program, a joint effort of the State and Federal governments, focuses the knowledge and energies of many scientists upon the many dangers to Alaska’s long coastline from the exploration and development of our offshore oil and gas reserves. I am a member of this Users’ Panel of municipal, State and Federal officials who, like me, are personally interested in devoting much of their time to satisfy themselves that the Federal OCS program is conducted in a safe and responsible manner. It was coincidental that this meeting was scheduled to begin on the last day of my campaign for Congress, a campaign which I used as much as I could to tell the people of Alaska about the difficult economic and political challenges of the existing Federal OCS program.
Because I focused upon the biggest OCS emergency facing us, the Dome Petroleum exploration project on the Arctic Shelf of the Canadian Beaufort Sea, where the oil industry has already begun our OCS program, I have been branded by many journalists as a one-issue candidate with narrow Arctic regional interests. But I know that what is happening in the Mackenzie Bay is of vital importance to everybody living in every coastal community in Alaska. If the oil industry is to be allowed to operate in our OCS program the way they are permitted to operate in the Canadian Beaufort, we all have serious problems. This was confirmed by U.S. Senator Ted Stevens in his June 23rd letter to Secretary Kissinger in which he asked Dr. Kissinger to help stop the Dome Petroleum exploration project. I have talked about many things in my campaign, but if it is to be remembered for one issue alone, then I am happy that it will be remembered for campaigning on the issues of the Federal OCS program.
The Canadian Beaufort Sea OCS program has already met with the proof of its danger to our Alaskan coastal environment with the blowout last month that wrecked one of Dome Petroleum’s drilling ship operations, revealing what Canadian scientists forecasted to be true, that drilling shop operations are not safe for Arctic Shelf exploration. But there are sound economic reasons behind the oil industry’s decision to proceed with drilling ship operations in spite of the warnings of Canadian scientists. For the oil industry, it was worth the gamble. It still is. The blowout was caused by striking a large deposit of natural gas, confirming valuable gas reserves. But had oil been struck, it would still be flowing now, one month later, and would probably flow until breakup next year. Because of the strong clockwise Beaufort Sea current, oil spilled in the Canadian Beaufort would pollute Alaska’s Beaufort Coast, and kill our migratory birds and wildlife.
The way I see it, the oil industry has demonstrated to us through its behavior in the Canadian Beaufort that it is quite capable of behaving in an irresponsible manner in the development of our outer-continental shelf, and we must work hard to prevent this kind of irresponsible behavior.
Part of this behavior in the Canadian Beaufort was to by-pass any local community input in Canadian OCS operations in the Mackenzie Bay. None of the residents of the Northwest Territories were consulted in any way, nor was the Northwest Territorial Government. It is obvious to me that close cooperation with local and State government will have to be one of the most important conditions of Alaska’s OCS program, something not provided for in existing OCS legislation or in Interior’s regulations. A close working relationship now between the scientists working on environmental impact assessment and local government will politically reinforce the role and work of our environmental scientists. Thus, I value my role as a member of the Users’ Panel, one that I hope to use to connect local coastal governments all around Alaska’s seacoast with all aspects of OCS program planning and execution.
Like the nuclear energy program, the OCS program places a heavy burden of social responsibility upon scientists working with it. As we learned from the Canadian government scientists employed in the five year Canadian Beaufort Sea Project, the Dome Petroleum OCS project in the Mackenzie Bay was approved by a few men in the Canadian government after its own scientists recommended against this approval. Scientists can be ignored unless their advice is reinforced by the political strength of public opinion….
(Concluding Text is Missing)