Little-Known Corporation Has Outsized Role in Push to Drill the Arctic Refuge

Washington, D.C. Aug. 9, 2018 — While the largest U.S. oil companies have been mostly silent about their aim to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one little-known corporation has been openly leading the charge, according to a new issue brief from the Center for American Progress.

The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC)—one of the largest private companies in the United States with annual revenues of $2.5 billion—has spent millions of dollars over the last two decades to convince Congress to overturn a ban on drilling on the refuge’s coastal plain.

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The corporation was created in 1972, after Congress passed legislation in 1971 to settle more than 100 years of disputes over land claims in Alaska. The ASRC is an Alaska Native regional corporation that today has 13,000 Alaska Native shareholders across Alaska and other parts of the United States. The company gained subsurface rights to more than 92,000 acres of land within the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge through a controversial land swap in 1983.

As part of the 1971 legislation, Alaska Native corporations are required to share some portion of any revenue from natural resource development with other corporations. However, the ARSC has recently resisted efforts that would make the company share any revenues from drilling in the Arctic Refuge with other Alaska Native corporations, saying that the terms of the 1983 land exchange make it exempt from the revenue-sharing provision. Some Alaska Native populations fear that development of the coastal plain will result in loss of sacred lands and subsistence resources, as well as other health impacts.

The ARSC is now looking to the Trump administration to rapidly proceed with permitting for exploration and subsequent leasing in the coastal plain. At present, the U.S. Department of the Interior is accepting public comments as to whether an environmental analysis is necessary to approve an application filed by the ARSC and its partners to begin seismic work through the coastal plain.

The brief finds that the ASRC must consider other Alaska Native groups who are not multibillion-dollar corporations but who will have their livelihoods deeply disrupted by development, if allowed. The corporation must make sustaining the environmental integrity of the refuge a priority. It is important, too, that Congress closely oversees the Interior Department’s next steps in assessing the environmental damage that would result from the ASRC’s proposal to do seismic testing.

Read the issue brief: “The Most Powerful Arctic Oil Lobby Group You’ve Never Heard Of” by Sally Hardin and Jenny Rowland

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”