7 ugly facts about Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

Aerial view of Alaska's Prudhoe Bay. Air pollution from this industrial complex has been detected nearly 200 miles away in Barrow, Alaska.

Sprawling across parts of Alaska’s North Slope, Prudhoe Bay industrial complex is America's largest oil field.

While Prudhoe Bay has its place in meeting U.S. energy needs, there is no doubt that oil development has caused irreversible changes to the Prudhoe Bay region.

My recent visit to Prudhoe Bay served only to remind me how much we should strive to keep such development here in Prudhoe Bay and out of pristine wild lands and waters in other arctic areas, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Special Areas of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Here's a few bits of information about Prudhoe Bay that tell more:

7 ugly facts about Prudhoe Bay

1.    Oil-industry infrastructure covers thousands of acres of Alaska's North Slope with wells, gravel roads, air strips, gravel pads, equipment-storage sites, and more.

2.    The Prudhoe Bay oil fields and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline system cause about 500 oil and toxic chemical spills annually on the North Slope, according to Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation data from 1996 to 2004.

3.    The field’s largest oil spill occurred in 2006, when a corroded BP pipeline ruptured and leaked roughly 267,000 gallons of oil.

4.    The effects of a major oil spill in the North Slope’s coastal areas or nearby marine waters could be devastating to waterfowl, ringed seals, bowhead whales, and polar bears due to the difficulty of cleaning up crude.

5.    Recovery from spills in the Arctic is slower because of cold temperatures, the slower growth rates for plants, and the longer life spans of animals. Even localized, relatively small spills can have serious consequences on habitat and wildlife.

6.    Prudhoe Bay air pollution emissions have been detected nearly 200 miles away in Barrow, Alaska.

7.  The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation lists more than 100 sites of contamination caused by the North Slope oil industry. 

See also:

Touring Prudhoe Bay, the epicenter of Alaska's oil boom

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