AJOC EDITORIAL: Jewell response on ANWR laughably, provably dishonest


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Can the Obama Administration tell the truth about anything?

Barely into the second term, it has long been clear that the only time you don’t have to decide whether this administration is being dishonest or incompetent is when it is being incompetently dishonest.

Such is the case with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s June 28 letter to Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell rebuffing his pledge of $50 million in state funding for 3-D seismic exploration of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“This Administration remains opposed to drilling in the Refuge and I support that position,” Jewell wrote. “We, nevertheless, have reviewed your offer and conclude that any new ‘exploratory activity,’ which would include seismic work by the statutory definition, is prohibited by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and would require Congressional authorization.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s a straight-up lie.

To figure that out, you need read no further than the “purpose” statement in the very section of ANILCA cited by Jewell (16 USC 3142b) in her letter to Parnell:

“The purpose of this section is to provide for a comprehensive and continuing inventory and assessment of the fish and wildlife resources of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; an analysis of the impacts of oil and gas exploration, development, and production, and to authorize exploratory activity within the coastal plain in a manner that avoids significant adverse effects on the fish and wildlife and other resources.” (emphasis mine)

So while Jewell claims Congressional authorization is needed for exploratory activity, a plain reading of the purpose statement shows that approval has already been granted.

Jewell wasn’t done, though.

“The ANILCA’s time-limited authorization to conduct exploratory activity in the 1002 Area expired when the Department of Interior submitted its oil and gas report to Congress in 1987,” she wrote to Parnell.

 I’ve already used the word “lie” once, so I’ll just have to call this claim by Jewell pure fantasy.

There is nothing, nowhere, no-how in that section of ANILCA that puts a sunset date on exploratory activity. The only dates referenced in the section require the Interior Department to develop guidelines for exploration during the two years after Dec. 2, 1980 (when no exploration would be allowed), and that it would be required to submit a report to Congress within five years and nine months regarding the matters outlined in the purpose statement quoted above.

In fact, the statue requires that after the guidelines for exploration are established, “The initial guidelines shall thereafter be revised to reflect changes made in the baseline study and other appropriate information made available to the Secretary.”

That language cannot be interpreted as anything other than the intent of Congress for exploration of the coastal plain of ANWR to be an ongoing affair and that guidelines would be updated based on the initial study.

The patently false justifications for denying the State of Alaska’s proposal for ANWR exploration are standard operating procedure for President Obama and his stooges like Jewell — who our Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich dutifully voted to confirm — whenever the law isn’t on their side.

In this case, the law clearly isn’t on Jewell’s side and she probably knows it but she and the rest of the Gang of Fools in D.C. are too inept to figure out a way to lie about in a way that couldn’t be disproven within a few minutes of web searching.

Here’s where Parnell has got Jewell over a barrel under the ANILCA section she cited: the law allows “any person including the United States Geological Survey” to submit an exploration plan to the Interior Secretary, and as long as it meets the exploration guidelines, she is required to approve it within 120 days.

“If the Secretary determines that the plan is so consistent, he shall approve the plan,” according to 16 USC 3142(e)2.

That’s “shall.” Not “may.” No wonder they’re trying to run the okie-doke.

Let’s skip back just a beat to something else Jewell invented out of thin air. In her letter to Parnell, she wrote that the ANWR exploration period ended with a 1987 Interior Department oil and gas report to Congress.

This document was a little harder to find online than the ANILCA statute, but the ANWR report delivered to Congress in 1987 recommended opening up the coastal plain to oil and gas development.

Then-Interior Secretary Donald Paul Hodel wrote the following in 1987:

“Based on analyses conducted, public comment on the draft report, the national need for oil and gas, and the Nation’s ability to develop such resources in an environmentally sensitive manner as demonstrated by two decades of success at Prudhoe Bay and elsewhere, I have selected as my preferred alternative, making available for consideration the entire Arctic Refuge coastal plain for oil and gas leasing.”

Recapping if you’re not scoring at home: Jewell lied to Parnell about Congressional authorization being required for exploration, she lied about a sunset date that doesn’t exist and she conveniently ignored the recommendation for development her predecessor made in the 1987 ANWR report that was submitted to Congress.

Hodel noted Congress would have to authorize a leasing program to develop ANWR. Jewell and the White House appear to believe that any further exploration would take place under a leasing program, and because there is no leasing program there can be no further exploration.

They must think we’re stupid.

The coastal plain of ANWR was specifically not designated as wilderness under section 1002 of ANILCA to allow for the potential for oil and gas development. That’s why the USGS was authorized to conduct exploration in the so-called 1002 area.

To imply that a leasing program must be in place before exploration can occur ignores the clear language and intent of ANILCA and continues this administration’s practice of disregarding the laws it finds inconvenient and inventing authorities when necessary, not to mention covering its tracks with unabashed and sloppy dishonesty. 

But hey, at least our senators extracted a promise that Jewell would visit King Cove before giving her their confirmation vote. I’m sure that will make a huge difference before she goes back to D.C. and tells Alaskans to stick it again.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at andrew.jensen@alaskajournal.com.

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