Energy & Alaska
Alaska’s Cook Inlet is a microcosm of the fossil-fuel industry, and provides an excellent platform to address the root causes of climate change and other impacts from oil, gas and coal development. For example, Cook Inlet includes onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling, over 1,000 miles of oil/gas pipelines, tankers, a large capacity petroleum refinery, a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export plant, a major petrochemical (fertilizer) facility, and a new Gas-to-Liquids refining facility. Cook Inlet is also the only waterbody in the nation where offshore oil and gas operators may legally dump their toxic wastes directly into coastal fisheries, and it’s the only major port in North America that lacks tug escorts for laden oil and liquefied natural gas tankers, despite the region’s notorious tides, ice and navigational conditions.
In addition to oil and gas, Outside investors announced plans in 2006 to develop Cook Inlet’s massive Beluga coal fields as part of the Chuitna Coal Project. This project would strip up to a billion tons of coal from an area 45 miles west of Anchorage that supports incredible fish and wildlife resources. Aside from the direct effects on salmon, moose and bear habitat, the combustion of Beluga coal will generate enormous amounts of greenhouse gases and add mercury to the atmosphere, where it can fall-out into Alaskan fish and the people who consume them. As a result, today in Cook Inlet, we face a fork in the road: we can move backwards to coal and oil and gas development – with all their well-documented problems – or we can embrace a future that includes clean, renewable power and long term, sustainable jobs. The choice is ours, but our children will live with our decision.
Cook Inletkeeper envisions a cleaner and more accountable energy industry in Cook Inlet which minimizes impacts to habitat, wildlife, water quality and human health, and which recognizes corporate and government responsibilities to local communities and resources. Inletkeeper works to ensure Cook Inlet’s energy industry meets or exceeds state and national labor and environmental standards, and reflects the unique conditions of Cook Inlet. Inletkeeper’s goals are to:
- Eliminate toxic discharges from the fossil fuel industry and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
- Stop or alter oil and gas lease sales and proposals for expanded fossil-fuel development to protect sensitive wetlands, water quality and important fisheries.
- Secure tug escorts and/or assists for single hull tankers and barges, and ensure the best possible performance for fossil fuel facility operators.
- Promote sustainable jobs and renewable energy through tidal power and other alternatives.
Inletkeeper’s targeted energy strategies include aggressive legal, scientific and technical advocacy, effective citizen education and organizing, persuasive media outreach, and thoughtful pro-worker, pro-community messages.
Because these environmental issues are occurring in the middle of Alaska’s most populated region – where hundreds of thousands of Alaskans work and recreate each year - Cook Inlet offers the best opportunity to highlight problems - and recommend solutions - for some of the thorniest issues surrounding hydrocarbon development, global climate change, and fish and wildlife conservation. While Cook Inletkeeper will continue to focus on the direct effects of oil and gas activities on fish, people and wildlife (i.e. toxic discharges, seismic noise, pipeline spills, etc), it will increasingly combine its oil and gas advocacy work with its salmon habitat protection work toward addressing the most immediate impacts and root causes of climate change in Alaska.