Alaska oil and gas exploration good and bad for area life

COLLEGE STATION, March 5, 2003 - Mahlon C. "Chuck" Kennicutt, director of the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG) at Texas A&M University, says the findings of a National Academies' National Research Council (NRC) report released today (March 4) on the cumulative effects of oil and gas exploration on the Alaska North Slope region present "a classic case of the tradeoffs that society faces when natural resource development is balanced against a desire to preserve and protect the environment."

Kennicutt was one of the 18 NRC committee members who compiled an assessment of oil and gas activities - including exploration, production and development - on domestic oil production from Alaska's North Slope.

The North Slope region, which covers about 89,000 square miles, an area slightly larger than Minnesota, has been the focus of oil and gas exploration since 1968, with more than 558 billion gallons of crude oil produced from the region. Today, about 15 percent of the total annual domestic oil production comes from Alaska's North Slope.

The key findings of the study, titled "Cumulative Environmental Effects of Alaskan North Slope Oil and Gas Activities" that began in 2000, was mandated by Congress, overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency and conducted by a committee convened by the National Academies of Science.

Accumulated affected include:

    *Roads. The report says that roads have had effects as far- reaching and complex as any physical component of the North Slope oil fields. Roads alter animal habitat and behavior, but also increase communication between North Slope residents and those outside the area.

    *Damage to tundra. The tundra has been damaged by the geophysical survey techniques that are critical to oil exploration efforts.

    *Animal population. Because human food is available in oil fields despite e

Contact: Keith Randall
Texas A&M University

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