Most folks don't really understand where the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is located and the relatively tiny amount of space within ANWR, (the Coastal Plain), that's been set aside for potential oil and gas development. If exploration proves the area is worth developing, less than one half of one percent, 2,000 to 5,000 acres would actually be developed.
ANWR: THE ISSUE
Most geologists agree that the potential of recoverable oil on the Coastal Plain is in the order of billions of barrels and trillions of cubic feet of recoverable gas and that these resources may rival the initial reserves at Prudhoe Bay. The validity of these estimates can only be proved by drilling exploratory wells. Before oil and gas development in the Coastal Plain can proceed, Congress and the President need to authorize leasing and development.
HOW MUCH OIL & GAS IS IN ANWR'S COASTAL PLAIN?
Geologists agree that the Coastal Plain has the nation's best geologic prospects for major new onshore oil discoveries. According to the Department of Interior's 1987 resource evaluation of ANWR's Coastal Plain, there is a 95% chance that a 'super field' with 500 million barrels would be discovered. DOI also estimates that there exists a mean of 3.5 billion barrels, and a 5% chance that a large Prudhoe Bay type discovery would be made.
WHO ACTUALLY VISITS THE ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE?
The answer?: Not many. For most of the year, ANWR is unbearably cold and dark. For several weeks, the sun doesn't even rise and leaves the windswept landscape a very inhospitable environment. Only a few hundred people visit ANWR each year.
CARIBOU IN THE REGION
Over four decades of development on the North Slope have shown that caribou can co-exist with development. The Central Arctic Herd, which calves in the Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk oil fields, has increased from 3,000 animals to more than 23,400 animals. Facilities in the Coastal Plain area would be designed to protect this important species and their habitat.
BIRDS IN THE REFUGE
During the brief arctic summer, the North Slope is home to millions of birds. Many come to nest and raise their young. Others come to molt or simply to pass through on migration. A few species are present year-round. Late May and early June bring long days, warmer temperatures, and flocks of migrating birds. Some of these stay in ANWR, while others continue to destinations elsewhere in Alaska and Canada.
Wildlife other than caribou, such as bears, wolves, and moose, use the Coastal Plain area infrequently and would be unaffected by development. Populations of these animals and others that live on the Coastal Plain such as muskoxen, are healthy and increasing despite three decades of development at Prudhoe Bay. Oil and gas development on the Coastal Plain would be temporary, and the long term ability of the habitat to support wildlife would not be affected.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE CONDITIONS
The Coastal Plain area demonstrates a striking contrast between summer and winter. During the summer months temperatures are relatively warm (40 degrees) and daylight is continuous. During the winter months temperatures drop well below O degrees and blowing snow fills in valleys and swales, resulting in the appearance of a vast, white wasteland.
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) , finalized in December of 1980, designated the 1.5 million acre Coastal Plain within ANWR a study area, to be evaluated for its oil and gas development potential. The resource evaluation, conducted by the Department of Interior, was released in 1987 and recommended that Congress open the Coastal Plain for oil and gas exploration and development. Since then, Alaska's Congressional delegation, our Governors and State Legislature's have been working toward that end. In 1995, the U.S. House and Senate approved Coastal Plain Development as part of a balanced budget act, but the entire measure was vetoed by President Clinton.
TOP TEN REASONS TO OPEN THE COASTAL PLAIN
Only 8% of ANWR Would Be Considered for Exploration Only the 1.5 million acre or 8% on the northern coast of ANWR is being considered for development. The remaining 17.5 million acres or 92% of ANWR will remain permanently closed to any kind of development. If oil is discovered, less than 2000 acres of the over 1.5 million acres of the Coastal Plain would be affected. Thatıs less than half of one percent of ANWR that would be affected by production activity.