Memo: Don’t Believe Industry Scam on Drilling Arctic Refuge

Feb 26, 2009

TO: Environmental and Political Reporters; Editors

Kathy Westra
Drew Bush

RE: Don’t Believe Industry Scam on Drilling Arctic Refuge: 2,000 Acres Sound Bite Ignores Reality

Public debate is focused on how this nation will tackle its chronic over-reliance on fossil fuels that continues to result in high fuel prices and worries about energy independence. Unfortunately, patently false claims by the oil and gas industry continue to find traction in news stories across the nation. One of the biggest myths that industry would like the media and the public to believe is that drilling the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will require only 2,000 acres.

I’m sending you this memo today so that you can see through this myth, one that has been pushed by the oil and gas industry for decades. Make no mistake, the 2,000 acre claim is false and the entire 1.5 million-acre Coastal Plain would be impacted by drilling. Any drilling in the Arctic Refuge would dramatically disrupt wildlife and cause permanent scars that would unalterably change this important American wilderness, creating industrial development that would sprawl across the entire coastal plain of the Refuge.

As industry continues its multi-million dollar campaign to bombard the media and the public with rhetoric on drilling, you’ll see the 2,000-acre myth and other deceitful arguments coming directly from the lips of industry allies in government who hope to capitalize politically on American suffering over high gas prices. Don’t be fooled into accepting these falsehoods as facts.

Drilling the Arctic Refuge would not help ordinary Americans. It would simply help line the pockets of oil companies that reported record second quarter profits of $48.1 billion in 2008. The evidence is clear. If oil were discovered at commercial quantities, gas prices would drop by only a few pennies per gallon and not until 2030, according to our own government’s Energy Information Administration. [1]

Despite this fact, the oil and gas industry and like-minded politicians continue to advocate drilling and misrepresent its impacts. Retired Republican Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (NY) saw through the lies and once noted: “The proponents of drilling add insult to injury with their spurious arguments in favor of drilling. It is only a few thousand acres, they say. That is like saying, do not worry, the tumor is only in your lungs. The drilling will have impacts that will affect wildlife throughout the area.”

The facts support Rep. Boehlert’s astute assessment:

  • Science confirms that the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge (also known as the “1002 Area”) is no barren wasteland, but instead serves as home to more than 250 animal species and birds from all 50 states. The Gwich’in people consider the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge a sacred place and have relied on the Refuge’s caribou and other wildlife resources for thousands of years.
  • There is no requirement that the 2,000 acres be contiguous. Oil corporations want you to think they are talking about one compact area of 2,000 acres. But, as with the North Slope oil fields west of the Arctic Refuge, development would sprawl over a very large area. Here's a map showing the real footprint of Arctic Refuge oil development.

  • Although drilling proponents claim that only 2,000 acres would be opened to industry, most legislation that has been introduced to allow drilling would open the entire 1.5 million acres of the coastal plain.[2]
  • Whatever oil and gas lies under the coastal plain is spread throughout the 1002 area, according to the U.S. Geological Survey[3]. Therefore, networks of pipelines, gravel pits and roads would need to be built, fragmenting wildlife habitat.
  • Even if the 2,000 acres were contiguous, it would have a huge impact on the wilderness. For example, the 12-lane wide New Jersey turnpike stretches more than 100 miles across the state but covers only 1,773 acres.
  • The 2,000 acres does not include all oil industry infrastructure, facilities, or operations. The 2,000 acres argument only includes the area where oil production facilities actually touch the ground but excludes gravel mines, roads, and pipelines (except their posts).[4] It does not cover seismic or other exploration operations across the 1.5 million acre area. It also does not account for air and noise pollution, which are carried far from development.

The oil and gas industry’s claim to be able to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in an environmentally responsible manner simply ignores reality. In fact, read more about the industry’s checkered past at Prudhoe Bay and more about this myth.

As our nation continues to debate strategies for achieving energy independence and lowering high fuel prices, we hope you will continue to question those you interview to determine if they are giving you the whole picture. Please let me or Drew Bush know if we can be of further assistance.

Best wishes,

Kathy Westra
Director of Advocacy Communications

[1] EIA, “Petroleum Supply and Disposition, ANWR Drilling Case” (Results from Side Cases, Table D12), Annual Energy Outlook 2007, February 2007, p. 202. EIA estimated that in 2030 the Arctic Refuge would produce 650,000 bpd at an estimated price of about $63.00 per barrel, which would reduce the price of a barrel of oil by approximately $0.85. (This estimate converts EIA data to 2008 dollars using the GDP deflator and assumes a one-to-one impact on gasoline prices; $0.85 / 42 = $0.02 per gallon.)

[2] H.R. 6, Energy Policy Act of 2005, Sec. 2206,

[3] U.S. Geological Survey. April 2001. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 1002 Area, Petroleum Assessment, 1998, including economic analysis. USGS Fact Sheet FS-028-01.

Bird, K.J. 1998. Chapter AO. Assessment Overview. In: The oil and gas resource potential of the 1002 area, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, by ANWR Assessment Team, U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report 98-34. Figs. AO6-15.

[4] Identical amendment in H.R.4 and H.R.6: “Ensure that the maximum amount of surface acreage covered by production and support facilities, including airstrips and any areas covered by gravel, beams or piers for support of pipelines, does not exceed 2,000 acres on the Coastal Plain.”