An Arctic about-face: Alaska natives, who fought offshore oil projects, now leading the charge to drill | Fuel for Thought

For years indigenous people living in small villages along Alaska’s Arctic coast fiercely fought offshore drilling. Now they want a piece of the action. When Shell first showed up in 2007 with a fleet of drillships and support vessels, and parked them in the migration path of the bowhead whale in the eastern Alaska Beaufort Sea, the Inupiats went to court. An injunction from the US Ninth Circuit stopped the company and started a chain of problems that would ultimately defeat Shell’s multibillion dollar Arctic initiative. Fast-forward to 2018. The Inupiats have now taken over Shell’s offshore Beaufort Sea leases, where there were also earlier oil discoveries, and intend to develop them, most likely by partnering with larger firms. In a decade, indigenous people in northern Alaska have come full circle, from hostility to cautious embrace of offshore drilling. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, owned by all Inupiats of the North Slope, is playing its cards close on its plans for 20 former Shell OCS leases off Camden Bay, in the Eastern Beaufort. The US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement approved the transfer of Shell’s leases to ASRC April 13. The area is highly prospective and includes Union Oil’s small “Hammerhead”… continue reading

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