AMCC: Bristol Bay Rightfully Withdrawn from Oil and Gas Leases

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Jay Barrett/KMXT

Just last week President Barack Obama withdrew Bristol Bay and the North Aleutian Basin from future offshore oil and gas lease sales until at least 2017. Fisherman Dan Strickland, who works for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, was on KMXT’s Talk of the Rock Tuesday discussing the benefits to fishermen and the environment of the withdrawal.

He said the area had been leased in the mid-1980s, but after the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in 1989, congress bought the leases back. But after George W. Bush came to power, things changed and they were opened up again:

(Bristol Bay 1 38 sec "We had a shift in the … for leaseing until 2017.")

He said the withdrawal of Bristol Bay waters from potential lease sales was the right thing to do, in order to protect the largest salmon fishery in the world, and jobs that go with it:

(Bristol Bay 2 29 sec "It’s the largest private sector … as is often times thought.")

Offshore petroleum development has been going on in Cook Inlet for nearly 50 years, along side commercial fishermen who make their sets within sight of the oil and gas platforms. Strickland says the ecosystems of Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay are very different, and there are studies that suggest the oil industry may have a negative affect on the fisheries:

(Bristol Bay 3 38 sec "It is arguable that … really are quite different.")

The presidential withdrawal is in effect only until 2017, but Strickland is hopeful a more permanent ban can be found before then:

(Bristol Bay 4 27 sec "We feel like the political … before that 2017 rolls around.")

He said the Federal Minerals Management Service estimates the economic benefit from Bristol Bay oil and gas to be about 8-billion dollars over the projected 25- to 40-year life of production. Over the same time span, the commercial fisheries potential value is 50- to 90- billion dollars. While Bristol Bay was withdrawn, offshore areas in northern Alaska are still available for potential lease sales.

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