Oil companies need rules before drilling

Shannyn Moore

A friend of mine has a "driving teenager." I know my time is coming, so I've watched their interaction closely.

"Be home by 11. Wear your seat belt. Call or text me to check in at 10. You can't give rides to anyone. Don't bring the car back on empty. Don't drink anything you shouldn't and drive. Give yourself enough time to drive safe and be home on time."

Seemed reasonable to me.

"You NEVER let me do anything!" came the response.

"Well, you're my child, and it's my car. If you can't recognize a privilege enough to abide by the rules, you can stay home."

"Fine, I'll text you, see you at 11."

The exchange struck me as similar to our relationship, as a state, with our resource extraction partners.

This week the Obama administration deemed the Arctic suitable for drilling. I'm not real happy about it, but I'm sure lots of people who didn't vote for him are.

We've made the deal: The oil companies have the wheel of our car despite their poor driving records.

Alaskans need to set some rules for them and make sure they're enforced. Considering the war on the EPA being waged in Washington, D.C., it may behoove us Alaskans to start the conversation now.

Acoustic Triggers. I know, they sound like something at a rock concert. They aren't. They're remote-controlled devices rigged beneath the sea floor that collapse and kill fractured and uncontrollable gushing oil wells. They're a last resort during a catastrophic event like last summer's BP DeepWater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. The device sends an acoustic impulse through the water, implodes the well and renders it useless. It's much more effective than that unsuccessful "top hat" trick BP tried.

Norway and Brazil require offshore rigs to have acoustic triggers. Britain doesn't require them, but BP opts to use them there. Perhaps it's because they're based in London. After all, before they were Beyond Petroleum, they were known as British Petroleum. After the 2003 closed-door meetings with oil producers and then-Vice President Dick Cheney, the Bush administration decided not to require them because they cost $500,000 to install. Of course, the real reason multinational oilygopolies fought mandatory acoustic triggers is the potential to lose tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in wells that are killed.

In the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, Alaska should consider these triggers the "wear-your-seat-belt" rule.

I can't imagine offshore development in Oregon and California relying on assistance from our Kodiak Coast Guard base. Essentially, that's what Alaska is getting set up for. Politicians like to say there's a base "a thousand miles away." Yep, if you're a bird or a plane, Kodiak is that close to the fragile Chukchi and Beaufort seas. But that isn't generally how the "COAST" Guard operates. It's more than twice that far by sea in nautical miles. In fact, as a boat floats, the Coast Guard base in Kodiak is much closer to Seattle than the oil plays.

There should be closer ports and bases to the Arctic. With shipping lanes open longer every year and the liberal agenda of "drill, baby, drill" finally getting traction, let's insist on a port of call closer to any cry for help. With all the recent base closures and consolidations, would it be too much to ask that we open a Coast Guard base in Kotzebue or Barrow? Or to build a government ice breaker just in case there's a catastrophic under-ice spill?

Wouldn't that be like the "check in by 10" rule?

Income. The feds should share revenue with us. Alaska is taking a tremendous risk for little profit. Anything developed six miles or more off our shores delivers zero revenue to us. Our congressional delegation hasn't been able to negotiate what other states enjoy and now depend on. A plan to raise all revenue sharing with states to 37.5 percent stalled out (but boy howdie did the legislation to "streamline the process" for oil companies zip right through).

Think of this as the "Don't bring the car back on empty" rule.

Considering that our own Sen. Lisa Murkowski argued at the height of the seemingly never-ending Gulf of Mexico-killing oil gusher last summer to keep the oil companies' liability cap at $75 million instead of the proposed $10 billion, we need to have every available safety precaution in place. We obviously don't have the support of a senator who is supposed to work on behalf of her constituents (that would be us, not the wealthiest and most profitable multinational corporations in the history of civilization). But that was a few months before an overconfident Lisa lost her primary to Tea Party Joe. For what it's worth, some estimates of the overall cost of the Deepwater Horizon spill are now in the hundreds of billions of dollars -- a long way north of the still-in-place $75 million liability cap so staunchly defended by Murkowski.

We have an opportunity to make the rules when it comes to our state. We owe it to future generations to be good stewards and smart about how we develop our resources. Just like parents raising teenagers, we have to set standards and boundaries for these corporations.

If they don't like the rules, they can stay home. But just like my friend's teenage daughter, I suspect the producers will complain loudly and roll their eyes, but if we're strong and hold our ground, they'll learn to live with our rules. And we'll all sleep better.

Shannyn Moore can be heard weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2p.m. on KOAN 1020AM/95.5FM radio. Her weekly TV show can be seen on KYUR Channel 13 on Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m.