A handful of oily sand grabbed from a Louisiana wetland brought back some strong memories for Earl Kingik. As a traditional hunter and whaler in Alaska’s Arctic, it reminded him of the Exxon Valdez spill. As he and other tribal leaders toured the U.S. Gulf Coast for signs of the BP oil spill, they worried that what’s happening now in Louisiana could happen if offshore drilling proceeds off the Alaskan coast.
“There’s no way to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic,” said Kingik, an Inupiat tribal member from Point Hope, Alaska. Compared to Louisiana, where the waters are relatively calm and cleanup equipment and experts are nearby, the Arctic Ocean is a hostile place for oil and gas exploration. The Arctic leaders made their pilgrimage to the Gulf Coast as part of a campaign to block planned exploratory drilling by Shell Oil in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
… The planned start of Alaska offshore drilling in July coincides with the spring hunt of the bowhead whale, a central event in the Inupiat culture, Falk said.
… The Arctic native people headed for Washington DC after their Gulf Coast tour to plead their case with members of Congress and Obama administration officials. The three members of the Alaskan congressional delegation generally favor offshore drilling as a way to ensure jobs and the continued operation of the Trans-Alaska pipeline.