|Drilling in Alaska is not really related to the possibility of drilling offshore Florida, but all of this discussion will ultimately help us when it comes to valuing the potential of the Coastal Petroleum leases. I am still expecting the no drill attitude of the Florida Administration to ultimately hold, but our focus from here on out should be on estimating how much oil there is under the Coastal Petroleum leases. As the Alaska discussion moves forward, we should be hearing more and more about how much oil there is there. From what I have heard so far, the Coastal Petroleum Leases may have the same potential as Alaska or is that stretching it too far?|
Sunday June 17 9:21 AM ET
Alaska Drilling Supporters Get Key Interior Posts
By Yereth Rosen
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The head of a group campaigning for oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and an Alaska lawmaker who has promoted North Slope oil development were named to key Interior Department positions.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton said on Saturday she has appointed Cam Toohey as her special assistant for Alaska and state Sen. Drue Pearce as a senior adviser on Alaska issues.
Development backers hailed the appointments but environmentalists slammed them.
Since 1996, Toohey has been executive director of Arctic Power, an Anchorage-based lobbying group with the campaign for ANWR drilling as its sole purpose. He will be based in Anchorage, overseeing the Interior Department's Alaska operations.
Pearce, an Anchorage Republican who served two terms as president of the state Senate, will be based in Washington. Hers is a new position.
Norton said the Bush administration remains committed to promoting oil development in the Arctic refuge, despite opposition from environmentalists and the recent shift of power in the U.S. Senate to the Democrats, who generally oppose the drilling plans.
Oil from the refuge's coastal plain ``needs to be considered in any debate'' about a national energy policy, Norton said at a news conference in Anchorage.
``It's such a large resource that it cannot be ignored,'' she said. ``Even at the low-end estimates we could get as much oil from the (coastal plain) area as we get from (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein. It's a choice the American public has to make.''
Development backers welcomed Norton's selections.
``These appointments are great for Alaska,'' Oliver Leavitt, chairman of the Barrow-based Arctic Slope Regional Corp., said in a prepared statement. Arctic Slope, a regional corporation owned by the Inupiat Eskimos of the North Slope, has long pushed for oil development in the Arctic refuge.
Environmentalists criticized the appointments.
``Today we've seen a hostile takeover of the Interior Department by the oil industry,'' said Sara Callaghan Chapell, an Alaska spokeswoman for the Sierra Club. Instead of appointing stewards for Alaska's resources, Norton has ``chosen cheerleaders for Big Oil,'' she said.
The Arctic refuge's coastal plain, which could hold 3 billion to 16 billion barrels of oil, according to Interior Department estimates, is also the calving ground for a huge herd of caribou. Environmentalists say the narrow coastal plain, wedged between the Brooks Range and the Arctic Ocean, is critical to the ecosystem of the Arctic region.
Alaska is the only state to receive the dedicated attention from senior advisers, said Norton, who was visiting Anchorage. That is appropriate, she said, because so much of the vast state is managed by the Interior Department, from national parks and wildlife refuges to Native American tribal affairs.
``Alaska is unique in that respect. This is so much of a part of what the department does,'' she said.
The positions are especially important ``because of the approach that the Bush administration is using on environmental issues,'' Norton said.
``We want to involve local people in the decision-making. We want to use a consensus-building approach, involving environmentalists and industry and business people and farmers and ranchers and everybody who will be affected by our decisions,'' she said.