A group that includes six native Alaskan communities on the North Slope has joined an advertising campaign to persuade the Interior Department (DOI) to keep the Arctic Ocean in its proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022.

The Arctic Energy Center (AEC) said Arctic-Inupiat Offshore (AIO) — a joint venture (JV) of Arctic Slope Regional Corp., the largest native-owned corporation in the state, and six North Slope village corporations — has joined its Arctic Coalition campaign, which supports energy development in the state.

AIO Chairman Anthony Edwardsen said the JV supports the Arctic region’s inclusion in the leasing program, and said he believes the Inupiat people should be involved in discussions. He also said the native groups support safe and responsible energy development, which is critical to the North Slope economy.

“The breadth of organizations involved, both Alaskan and national, demonstrates the importance of this issue — not only to local communities, but to our state and to the country as a whole,” Edwardsen said. “Too often local people are left out of decisions affecting the North Slope. AIO seeks to be a partner to regulators, operators and native organizations.”

AIO was formed in 2014 and collectively represents 13,000 Inupiat people. The six North Slope village corporations — Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp., Tikigaq Corp., Olgoonik Corp., Kaktovik Inupiat Corp., Atqasuk Corp. and Nunamiut Corp. — represent the communities of Barrow, Point Hope, Wainwright, Kaktovik, Atqasuk and Anaktuvuk Pass.

The AEC said Arctic Coalition would launch a two-week, multi-platform advertising campaign on Tuesday, including a major television ad buy that would run in the Washington, DC, area. The total cost of the campaign was not disclosed, but the AEC said it was at least $100,000. A similar, six-figure ad campaign was launched last month (see Daily GPI, Sept. 13).

The Arctic Coalition includes the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association (AOGA).

AOGA CEO Kara Moriarty said the Obama administration “has repeatedly stressed that the perspectives of local people should be taken into account, and in fact prioritized, when considering whether to allow offshore development to move forward. In case there was any question remaining about the depth and breadth of support that responsible energy development enjoys in these communities, we’re hopeful that this campaign will clarify the point with folks in Washington.”

The AEC said a second advertising campaign would “explore the national security ramifications of offshore energy development in the Arctic.” That campaign is scheduled to begin next week (Nov. 1) and also target the Washington, DC, area.

“In addition to native communities’ support for development, we thought it was important to highlight the real synergies that exist between energy industry infrastructure and our national security needs in remote parts of the country like the Arctic,” said IPAA’s Jeff Eshelman, senior vice president for operations and public affairs. “The next advertisement will examine those parallels through a series of interviews with defense and security experts who have studied the issue and served in the region.

“Our hope is that by highlighting their perspective, members of the administration will again see evidence that the ramifications of excluding the Arctic from the leasing plan extend well beyond our future energy supply.”

In June, as part of the Arctic Coalition campaign, former Defense Department Secretary William Cohen and 15 former military leaders urged the DOI to keep the Arctic in the 2017-2022 lease sale (see Daily GPI, June 21). They argued that removing the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and the Cook Inlet from the sale would harm national security.

Currently, the proposed program would include 13 potential lease sales: 10 in the Gulf of Mexico and three in offshore Alaska — one each in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and in the Cook Inlet (see Daily GPI, March 15). The AEC said the DOI is due to announce its final version of the leasing program before the end of the year.

Last March, the Obama administration removed the Mid- and South Atlantic area, extending from Virginia to Georgia, from the five-year leasing program. The areas were first included in a draft version of the plan in January 2015 (see Daily GPI, Jan. 27, 2015).

Other members of the Arctic Coalition include the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska Laborers District Council, the Alaska Miners Association, the Alaska Petroleum Joint Crafts Council, the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, the AFL-CIO; Americans for Prosperity Alaska, the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., the Council of Alaska Producers, the International Association of Geophysical Contractors and the National Ocean Industries Association.