Obama completes his Arctic shutdown

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker enjoyed time with President Barack Obama on the president’s 2015 trip to Alaska.



In hindsight, perhaps President Barack Obama’s visit to Alaska in 2015 was the worst thing ever for the state’s economy. Some Alaskans said so at the time. Others didn’t believe it.

The time the president spent touring the state, at times with Gov. Bill Walker in tow, may have actually inspired him to lock down Alaska for good. It happens to many tourists who come to Alaska: They just can’t bear the thought of an oil rig in such a beautiful place.

But looking at documents released by WikiLeaks, it’s now evident that the president is merely completing what he intended to do all along.

Last year, he was simply playing Alaska’s governor. The trip to Alaska, it appears, was only to give himself cover for what was to come, while appearing to follow a deliberative process.

Over the past year, Obama has taken increasingly drastic measures to shut down fossil fuel development in Alaska. The Walker Administration has stood by, not even wringing its hands.

Obama locked up a third of the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska, the ANWR Coastal Plain, and massive sections of the Arctic Ocean. Less than two weeks ago, Obama created a special zone in the northern Bering Sea, which he is calling a “resiliency zone.”

Obama’s rationale is contradictory. On the one hand, he says the Arctic lacks the needed infrastructure, but on the other hand the “resiliency zone” designation works to kill the Northwestern Alaska port proposals that would provide some of that infrastructure. It is the perfect “Catch 22.”

Gov. Walker, after each of these decisions, said he was disappointed.

Today Obama’s march against fossil fuels continued when he issued an 11-hour order — long-expected — to indefinitely end oil and gas development in all of the Chukchi and almost all of the Beaufort Sea.

The Beaufort and Chukchi seas contain an estimated 23.6 billion barrels of  recoverable oil and 104.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.


Obama’s action uses the authority granted to him by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953, which says the president may, “from time to time,” withdraw federal waters from oil and gas development, if they are not already under lease.

In this case, Obama has shut down an entire planning area and he says it is permanent. That’s never been tried before.

Obama says the Arctic is too sensitive and the risk of a spill is too great. But if that’s the case, why did he leave any area available for drilling?


Gov. Walker tried in vain to make friends of Obama and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. Today even he expressed further disappointment, issuing this long-winded statement:

“This unprecedented move marginalizes the voices of those who call the Arctic home and have asked for responsible resource development to lower the cost of energy to heat houses and businesses. For centuries, the Arctic has provided food for those in the region. No one is more invested than Alaskans to ensure that the habitats within the Arctic are protected. To lock it up against any further exploration or development activity is akin to saying that the voices of activists who live in Lower 48 cities have a greater stake than those to whom the Arctic is our front yard and our back yard. During my phone call with Secretary Sally Jewell earlier today, she acknowledged that she and her team at the U.S. Department of the Interior took into consideration the requests that Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack and I made during multiple meetings with her in Washington, D.C., and in Fairbanks. We highlighted the areas of the Arctic most likely to provide revenue to the state. These efforts are reflected in that those regions were not included in the administration’s final decision. However, this concession is not satisfactory because the administration has already failed to include these same areas in its most recent five-year leasing plan.”  — Gov. Bill Walker

Those are not exactly fighting words. Indeed, they are mild in light of the gravity of this decision.

Plenty of things are “not satisfactory.” The Obama Administration’s rollout of Obamacare was not satisfactory. The president’s handling of border security is not satisfactory.

But shutting down a state’s economic future is an act of hostility.

To date, Walker has not challenged this president on any of his Alaska-related decisions, from subsistence to Indian Country to timber, mining, or oil and gas.

Governor Bill Walker on Air Force One with President Barack Obama.

Rather, the governor hitched a ride back to Alaska with Obama on Air Force One in 2015 to try the charm offensive. His former Chief of Staff and ally Jim Whitaker was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention for Obama’s nomination, speaking against the McCain/Palin ticket there and in commercials.

Walker’s Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott is a diehard Democrat. Walker has met several times with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Since the Knowles Administration, there’s not been an Alaska governor who has tried so hard to work with Democrats.

But nothing he has done has resulted in a gain for our state, as the blows to Alaska’s economic midriff just keep coming.

Rex Rock, president and CEO of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, a Native Corporation, was far more blunt in his criticism of Obama:

“We will fight this legacy move by the outgoing president with every resource at our disposal. This decision will not stop our climate from changing, but it will inhibit our North Slope communities from developing the infrastructure, communications capability and technology necessary for growth. It’s a move which was made without any consultation from the largest private land owners in the U.S. Arctic and yet we will be the ones forced to live with the consequences.” – Rex Rock, CEO, ASRC


President Obama never intended to allow drilling in Arctic waters. One only needs to wade in the shallow waters of WikiLeaks to find the real mission of the Obama Administration when it comes to the Arctic.

A 2015 memo from David Hayes, who ran Obama’s Arctic Energy Task Force, cheers the fact that the single well that Shell was allowed to drill ended up being a dry hole. In a note to Obama adviser John Podesta, Hayes wrote:

Shell’s dry hole in the Chukchi obviously is huge and welcome news. Perhaps the best part of this is that the Bush-era leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas that were purchased for $2+ billion in 2006 are now likely to expire before any new finds are confirmed. As a result, a future Administration should avoid the need to spend billions to buy out leaseholder’ interests in order to prevent future Arctic offshore drilling. (You may recall that in the Clinton Administration, there was a buy-out of existing leases in Bristol Bay; that was the only way to ensure  that those leases would not be developed. — David Hayes

The goal, it is evident from the Hayes memo, was to frustrate oil companies, Shell in particular, with every roadblock possible, until the company left and the leases expired.

The Wikileaks-released memo proves the Administration was not an honest broker while dealing with Shell Oil; it always intended to take back the leases, but without paying for them.


The congressional delegation for Alaska issued joint statements — strong statements, compared to our governor’s — that assure Alaskans they’re going to look to the next administration to undo the unprecedented acts of federal overreach that have occurred this month:

The only thing more shocking than this reckless, short-sighted, last-minute gift to the extreme environmental agenda is that President Obama had the nerve to claim he is doing Alaska a favor. For him to suggest to the people of the Arctic that they must rely on a nonexistent government working group and $9 million a year in charity as a substitute for real economic opportunity is a slap in the face to countless Alaskans. President Obama has once again treated the Arctic like a snow globe, ignoring the desires of the people who live, work, and raise a family there. I cannot wait to work with the next administration to reverse this decision. – Sen. Lisa Murkowski

“This announcement by the Obama Administration is an affront to our representative democracy. Make no mistake – the President betrayed Alaskans today – especially those living in the Arctic – who were not consulted, and instead gave one final Christmas gift to coastal environmental elites. This decision is not about environmental protection or the economics of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. This is hopefully the last act of a callous presidency, one that lacks any regard for America’s economic future and the hardworking families of Alaska. Presiding over a lost decade of economic growth for America, Obama’s legacy will not be one of transparency and inclusion of affected stakeholders, but instead one of executive overreach at the command of extreme special interests with agendas far removed from and unsympathetic to middle-class Alaskan families and other hardworking Americans. – Sen. Dan Sullivan

Frankly, this is a cowardly move by a lame duck President – eight years to take this action, yet it comes at the 11th hour with little to no support from Alaskans. I’ve been adamant with this administration; Alaska is not and should not be used as the poster child for a pandering environmental agenda. This decision only strengthens our resolve – as a resources oriented state – to overturn the heavy hand of government and empower our people and communities with new social and economic opportunities. The groundwork is already being laid to overturn this terrible decision. – Rep. Don Young


  1. I knew Walker was an ass kisser to Obama. That’s why we’re losing our pfd . Obama told walker that the people of Alaska didn’t need that money. And Obama doesn’t care about the American people!!!!!!

  2. Not all Alaskans support drilling in the arctic. Don Young should keep that in mind while doing everything possible to fight Obama’s parting gifts to those of us who care about the environment as well as future generations of Alaskans.

    I was here when we had to clean up the Exxon spill. We can do better than set ourselves up for more of that. The risks and costs of destroying the environment are too high–an oil spill is also dangerous for the fishing industry–what do our pro-oil profiteering state officials have to say about that?

    We can invest in alternate forms of energy. We can find other ways to invest in the Alaskan economy. Water or wind power anyone? Why do people think oil is the only answer? It is because our politicians are constantly courted by oil interests and those interests do not want to see alternative energy become a powerful force?

    Those of you who blindly support the drilling initiatives are thinking like the puppets of the oil companies. Alaskans can’t ever profit enough to make it worth destroying our land. It makes me sick to see native corporations constantly selling out to oil as well.

    I have never understood how my fellow Alaskans, people who love to hunt and fish so much can turn around and support industries that are virtually guaranteed to cause the destruction of our water, air, and land.

    Much like when you have people you don’t know over to your house for a party, things will get wild and upon wake up, none of them will be here to help with the clean up. Exxon wasn’t.

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