Friday, March 1, 2013

Mark Begich, the Arctic, and a Rational Future - Should I Send Mark Another $100?

Mark Begich on the Kulluk in the rig's better days
Alaska's junior U.S. Senator, Mark Begich, has had, since being elected, committee and subcommittee posts in the upper house that oversee Northern fisheries, Federal government infrastructure on the coasts and offshore, water quality of the seas and rivers, and oversight of corporations who need Federal permits to do business in Northern waters.

Begich, as a successful and engaged politician in Alaska, couldn't have been elected mayor of Anchorage, let alone a U.S. senator, unless he had made alliances with the local oil and natural gas concerns.  Since election to the senate in 2008, he has been unfailing in his support of new efforts by that industry to develop here wherever they might want to.

In spite of his having hearings in Anchorage in the sumer of 2012 which actually forced oil companies to sit down in front of people and answer questions about Arctic offshore oil drilling, his subcommittee failed to ask some of the probing questions that should have been asked even then.

In January of this year, in the wake of public attention being drawn to the grounding of Shell Oil's Arctic drilling rig, Kulluk, south of Kodiak Island, Begich declared his intent to have the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard investigate why Shell's 2012 drilling season left so many questions to be answered. From his January 8th press release on this:
Sen. Mark Begich, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, promised tough questions to examine the grounding and eventual recovery of Shell’s drill rig near Kodiak. 
Begich announced his intention to hold a meeting in Alaska to take a closer look at the incident, its causes and the response effort in a letter to Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp Jr. and Shell Oil Company President Marvin Odum issued Tuesday. 
In the letter, Begich reiterated how much Alaska and the nation stand to gain from development of Outer Continental Shelf resources: 
“Over the past four years, I have worked closely with both of you to ensure we develop the vast oil and gas resources in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas with the highest standards for safety and environmental protection,” Begich said in the letter. “Moving ahead with the Arctic drilling program is critical to Alaska’s economic future. While this incident notably involves marine transportation and not oil exploration or drilling, we must quickly answer the many questions surrounding the Kulluk grounding and improve any regulatory or operational standards as needed to is survival as an Alaska politician is dependant upon this keystoneensure this type of maritime accident does not occur again.” 
Part of the overall review will be to ask the Coast Guard about its response to this maritime incident, a timeline of steps taken, and their recommendations on future efforts needed to strengthen safety of development activities in the Arctic.
Note that Begich feels "moving ahead" on Arctic drilling is imperative.  As noted above, Begich is impelled to support the oil industry infrastructure, as his fealty to the oil and gas industry paradigm is keystone to his very survival in the 2014 election.

Speaking of keystones:
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich continued his call for swift approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, urging newly confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry to move forward with the process. Begich today joined a bipartisan group of 17 Senators in citing the economic importance and job creating capacity of the Keystone XL pipeline in a letter to Secretary Kerry. 
That was Wednesday.  Thursday, Begich noted:
Senator Begich issued the following statement today in response to Shell Oil’s announcement that the company would not resume drilling in the Arctic this summer: 
“I am very disappointed that Shell will not resume drilling operations in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas this summer. However, I’ve always believed Alaska can develop OCS resources safely and responsibly and I remain committed to a robust offshore oil and gas program in the Arctic. Off-shore drilling is critical for Alaska jobs and for the nation’s energy security. Shell is still moving forward with its science and data collection this summer so Alaskans can feel reassured that jobs are still generated and that Shell will be even more prepared for the 2014 season.” 
Senator Begich has been a vocal supporter of OCS drilling and pushed the Obama administration to expedite the permitting process. As a result, Shell Oil became the first producer in 20 years to initiate drilling operations in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off Alaska’s northern coast.
Senator Begich's responsibilities to Alaskans overshadow his fealty to such irresponsible development partners that Shell so fully exemplifies.

Why is Senator Begich so enthralled to this misfit outfit, whose best environmental record recently on the planet is in Alaska, but has contributed so very little, outside of outright semi-legal bribes, to any institution in the state, since they began their big 2012 and beyond push?  The money they wasted here in 2012 could have funded so much they have disdained, and now have to go begging in Asia to get - Alaska shoreside maritime repair or building infrastructure.

First of all, it says something about Shell that the worst oil company season on recent record in Alaska was theirs, but that they ran it better than they run stuff in Nigeria - by a dozen country miles.

Secondly, Sarah Palin could have run their operations up here last year better than Curtis Smith did.

We need these companies to contribute to building Alaska into something more than the colonial economy we sought to get out of through statehood a half century ago.  We need to force them to do it, because they never volunteer to do so in a meaningful way.

Begich has moved his subcommittee hearing or hearings from March to May, and may be trying to find a way out of holding them at all.

The $5.3 billion Shell has spent so far on their Arctic Alaska plan should be studied by the staff Sen. Begich had working for him when he was Anchorage's mayor - the "green people" there.  They cut costs, made rational choices on how to spend city money, and he signed off on their best stuff.  He didn't bring any of them to D.C. to continue any "green projects," though.

As disappointed as I am with Mark's postures on oil development here and elsewhere, as opposed to his disinterest in viable energy alternatives, he's the best choice we're probably facing for the seat he holds in 2014.  He is the farthest to the left or center we have who can be elected.

The alternatives make me want to puke even more than his shortcomings do.

Should I send Mark another $100.00?

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