'Popping and spewing,' Tarr lectures rural Alaskans - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, June 16, 2021
HomePolitics‘Popping and spewing,’ Tarr lectures rural Alaskans

‘Popping and spewing,’ Tarr lectures rural Alaskans


Rep. Geran Tarr, co-chair of House Resources, gave a detailed explanation on the House floor today of why she does not support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain: Melting permafrost is already causing existing wells to “spew” oil everywhere.

“Here we are in 2019 and because of the thawing permafrost, the wells are literally popping out of the ground and spewing oil and gas across the surface of the North Slope,” Tarr said. “I don’t know what will be happening in 2024 (when the North Slope 1002 Area is planned for drilling),  but this is not a comprehensive energy strategy. This is not doing the right thing, in my opinion, for the next generation.”

In fact, a couple of old wells from decades ago have eased out of the thawing permafrost and small amounts of petroleum have come to the surface, mostly gas, but also some oil, all of which was contained in the well housing; none has escaped onto the tundra. Those with that old well design are being capped.

Tarr also objected to the resolution due to climate change, and said she was unhappy that Gov. Michael Dunleavy had shelved Gov. Bill Walker’s climate change task force: “Unfortunately both at our state and federal government, our highest leaders have abandoned the work on climate change.”

She then delivered a lecture directly to rural residents in the state, saying there is a false choice between getting new revenue from the oil fields and providing services to poor areas of the state.

That’s when Speaker Bryce Edgmon interrupted her and cautioned, “Rep. Tarr, I have rural residents in my district. Please continue.” She continued to assert that those services should still be provided to rural residents, who had testified in her committee that they support responsible oil development in their region.

“I would caution any member from making statements that are sweeping in nature. Please continue,” Speaker Edgmon interrupted her again.

“What we heard in committee was that the development was needed because of the services that would come from the revenue,” Tarr argued, evidently taking her disagreement with rural testifiers in her committee to the House floor.

“To me that’s a false choice because I believe the services are needed regardless of whether the revenue comes from the resource development,” she said. However, she was silent on where the revenue would come from in the absence of resource development.

The resolution, which is simply a statement of support, is nearly identical to one that has passed both the House and Senate every two years for decades, but specifically refers to the draft environmental impact statement that is now in the public comment period, which ends March 13.

Senate Joint Resolution 7 says “the Alaska State Legislature requests that the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, implement an oil and gas leasing program in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as outlined in the December 2018 Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program Draft Environmental Impact Statement.”

Rep. John Lincoln, who serves the people of District 40 where the 1002 Area is located, had a different perspective than Tarr, who represents urban East Anchorage. As the other co-chair of House Resources, he rose to support the resolution, saying oil wealth has paid for state and local government services for decades. Many of his community leaders had testified in favor of the development.

Rep. Adam Wool, who represents a portion of Fairbanks, voted against the resolution, as did Rep. Sara Hannan, who represents Juneau. Both are Democrats, like Tarr, and both are from communities that benefit greatly from oil revenues.

The only votes against the resolution in the Senate were from Democrat Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson and Sen. Tom Begich.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Because as well all know, money grows on trees in Alaska.

    Better yet, let’s just vote for Bernie. He’ll make sure we have plenty of money.

    I’m afraid many of these millennial/gen Z’s were never taught critical thinking in school.

  • Gosh, it sure is fun and oh SO “progressive” to spend other people’s money. I hope we don’t run out of it…

    • That’s the problem …….. eventually you run out of other people’s money. Then we can eat the zoo animals, loot the remaining items in the stores and then beg another country for help… wait! That’s right! We ARE the helping country! Careful what you wish for Socialists…….

  • So provide services with zero income?


    We going to tax the mosquitoes and caribou? Those villages are ultimately unsustainable unless they go back to traditional subsistence.

    • Many in the bush are trying to develop an economy… if the state and feds would just get out of the way.

  • We eagerly await Peoples Representative Tarr’s decree ordering Alaska’s Native Corporations to “provid(e) services to poor areas of the state” within their corporate boundaries.

  • Actually, the reason for developing 1002 is not to provide government services. It’s because productive citizens see it as a way to make a legitimate living by producing a product which will be purchased by other productive citizens and everyone lives a good life enjoying liberty. Government services are just a side benefit for someone.

  • Elections have consequences, as clearly demonstrated by … Tarr, Wool, Hannan, Begich, Jackson.

  • Susan Downing, do your homework. The first well that failed in April 2017 did *in fact* spew methane for several days before a special team was able to shut it down. The second well that failed was previously “shut down”. It too took days to get under control. The third was an injection well that we don’t know much about yet. Rep Tarr is right to question the situation. All Alaskans should be concerned, if nothing else about the tremendous waste costing our local and state coffers $millions in lost revenue.

    • Farts
      Caribou in Alaska are distributed in 32 herds (or populations) totaling approximately 950,000 animals.
      These must be stopped and do far more gassing than a rouge well or two.

  • When was the last time any of these reps were on the slope and inspecting the oil fields themselves? I submit never. If they are speaking about thawed tundra, that would make their information dated, as it is clearly frozen at this time. Any spill (of a specific quantity) is a reportable event. Have theses not been reported? From what experience does Tarr lecture? I know that these reps rely on reporting from the field, but are prone to spin and receive as gospel, that which aligns with their narrative. Just once I’d like to read a source document on which they base their decisions.

  • Not to worry about a thing! Tarr was “sputtering, spewing and stalking” a 14 year old boy on the news. She really went after that boy with intent to do corporal punishment. So, this is easy for Tarr. How about the rest of the state?

  • I’m willing to wager a large amount that Rep. Geran Tarr has never been on the North Slope. I have. My dump truck hauled and dumped the last load of fill to connect the pipeline to pump station 1. Never have I seen such desolation and emptiness as on the slope. Flat as a board, cold as the dickens, inhabited by foxes, ptarmigan, owls, ravens, hares and lemmings. That’s about it except when the caribou and wolves show up. They are there for a couple months. I empathize with the people against developing ANWR but I don’t agree with them. Again, I’ll wager the vast majority of anti-drilling activists have NEVER been there. They all want big $$ but instead of digging/pumping it out of the ground, they want to pump/dig it out of other Alaskans’ pockets. When they start putting their money (not mine) where their mouth is, I might listen to them. Until then, NO WAY!!!!!!!!

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