The Wilderness Society Testifies on Upstream Oil Technologies

May 10, 2011

Highlights spill threats from poorly-regulated infrastructure among other issues

The Wilderness Society’s Arctic Program Director and Alaska-licensed engineer Lois Epstein testified today before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in a hearing on new developments in oil and gas drilling technologies.

Epstein’s testimony focused on problems associated with poorly-regulated onshore and offshore infrastructure, options to keep the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System viable without drilling federal lands and waters, and describing how directional and conventional oil drilling have similar impacts on ecosystems.

“Oil drilling has a troubling history of spills and pollution,” said Epstein.  “Even the best-financed operators cannot ensure that they will not have leaks or major spills.  Directional drilling will not change that.”

Epstein gave a realistic assessment of the impacts that directional drilling, and associated exploration activities, would have on ecologically-important areas.  “Seismic exploration done prior to directional drilling for oil production can leave impacts on Arctic landscapes for decades,” said Epstein.  “The bottom line with directional drilling is that it allows a region to become industrialized and adversely impacted to essentially the same extent as conventional drilling.”

A proposal to allow directional drilling underneath the extremely sensitive Arctic National Wildlife was met with concern from The Wilderness Society’s President William H. Meadows.

“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is far too sensitive a landscape to open to oil drilling – even directional drilling.  The refuge’s wilderness and wildlife values are a global treasure.  The refuge was established fifty years ago to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity.”

Related Resources: Broken Promises: The Reality of Oil Development in America's Arctic