Alaska in Energy Spotlight as New Arctic Drilling Looms

Alaska in Energy Spotlight as New Arctic Drilling Looms

June 12, 2018

In the coming years 1.6 million acres of formerly protected Alaskan wilderness will be the site of new oil exploration and drilling. Can the state balance energy development and its environmental heritage?

In December the Trump Administration opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy development, as part of the administration’s tax reform package. The opening was the culmination of a decades-long battle, fought at federal and state levels, to gain access to possibly 10 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil reserves in an area that is also home to some of the United States’ greatest wildlife populations. The move is part of the Trump administration’s plan to increase oil output and achieve its stated goal of global energy dominance. For Alaska, new development has the potential to accelerate a recent uptick in Alaskan oil production that follows nearly three decades of declining output.

Energy Policy Now guest Lois Epstein, Arctic Program Director with the Wilderness Society in Alaska, discusses how the opening of ANWR is the latest chapter in a long history of energy development in Alaska, and looks at the historic tie between the state’s economy and the oil industry’s fortunes.  A 17-year resident of the state, she provides her perspective on the way that Alaskans view their relationship to energy and environment, and how the often competing priorities of energy development, budgets and environment are being weighed as a potential new wave of oil development in ecologically sensitive areas looms.

Lois Epstein is Arctic Program Director with the Wilderness Society in Alaska. Her work focuses on the safety and environmental impact of Arctic oil and gas operations. A licensed engineer, Epstein has served on a number of federal advisory committees, including two National Academy of Sciences committees studying oil and gas regulations. She has also testified more than a dozen times on energy and environmental issues before the U.S. House and Senate.


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