Salazar earns Palin praise, Alaskan native eco ire on offshore drilling plan

Even as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin showed former Colorado senator and Obama Interior Secretary Ken Salazar some love on her facebook page for opening up the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska to offshore drilling, Native American environmentalists from her state were blasting Salazar ahead of his speech today at climate change talks in Copenhagen.

The lightning-rod GOP vice presidential candidate from 2008 had this to say on facebook Monday:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (Split Estate)

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (Split Estate)

“I commend Interior Secretary Salazar’s decision today to conditionally approve drilling at three exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska; it’s a decision that’s been a long time coming. The area north of the Arctic Circle contains some of the world’s richest oil and gas reserves. U.S. Geological Survey researchers estimate that it contains 1.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 83 billion barrels of undiscovered oil.

“The international community recognizes the potential of Arctic off-shore drilling; it’s about time our government allowed us to compete with them by developing these rich reserves in an environmentally responsible way. As I said last April in my testimony before the Secretary during a federal hearing in Anchorage, “Alaska’s oil and gas resources can and should be a major part of the implementation of any creditable energy plan for our nation. Alaska has proven that these resources can be developed safely, but Arctic exploration and development is a slow, demanding process. Delays or major restrictions in accessing these resources for environmentally responsible development are not in the national interest or the interests of the State of Alaska.”

“As an Alaskan and an American, I am very grateful for the decision today because it is a step in the right direction toward prosperity for Alaska and energy independence and security for America.”

In a press release Wednesday from the Indigenous Environmental Network ahead of Salazar’s address today at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, other Alaska natives had this to say:

“Alaska Natives from the Chukchi Sea to Copenhagen are reeling today after the announcement that the Obama administration has approved Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s (RDSa.L) plan to drill for oil off Alaska’s northwest coast as early as next summer. In a move revealing of the U.S. agenda at Copenhagen, the Department of the Interior has endorsed drilling for fossil fuels in the climate-effected ecosystems of the Arctic, where global warming already impacts Alaska Natives and entire villages are in danger of losing their lands and way of life.

“’Shell says ‘the Chukchi Sea could be home to some of the most prolific, undiscovered hydrocarbon basins in North America,’ but we’re here to remind Salazar and Shell that it is our home and our lives that will be devestated by the drilling,’” said Faith Gemmill, Executive Director of REDOIL, who is attending the Copenhagen Climate Talks. “’More fossil fuel drilling will only bring more pollution to the Chukchi Sea, and ultimately, more devastating climate change to the world. Salazar should know: We must leave those fossil fuels in the ground and invest in real renewable solutions that uphold Indigenous Peoples rights.’”

REDOIL is described in the release as “a network and movement of Alaska Natives who are challenging the fossil fuel and mining industry and demanding our rights to a safe and healthy environment conducive to subsistence. The REDOIL network consists of grassroots Alaska Natives of the Inupiat, Yupik, Aleut, Tlingit, Gwich’in, Eyak and Denaiana Athabascan tribes.”

Palin has also previously said offshore drilling in the Arctic will actually help with global warming.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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