In an effort to counter pressure from environmentalists, a coalition of industry groups and others has launched 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.

On Monday, the Arctic Energy Center (AEC) said the campaign by the Arctic Coalition would include broadcast, print and digital advertising, including a six-figure television ad buy that would run in the Washington, DC, area for one week, beginning Monday but with a possibility for further expansion.

The AEC said the campaign by the 20-member Arctic Coalition is “in direct response to [environmental] activists’ efforts, using the platform to articulate the essential role that oil and gas development plays in the Arctic and the importance of ensuring that it is included in the final leasing program.”

The Arctic Coalition includes the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association (AOGA). It also includes the largest native-owned corporation in the State of Alaska, the Arctic Slope Regional Corp.

IPAA’s Jeff Eshelman, senior vice president for operations and public affairs, took one environmental group, the Wilderness Society, to task for arguing that the departure of oil and gas companies from the Arctic signaled that an offshore leasing program there would be expensive and unnecessary. Royal Dutch Shell plc, which had been the largest offshore Alaska explorer, has surrendered most of its leases, as have other producers working in the region (see Daily GPI, May 11).

“Quite aside from the skewed logic of arguing that companies will never again be interested in developing the Arctic based on today’s commodity price, the idea that we’re not interested in the Arctic simply isn’t true,” Eshelman said. “Today industry retains over 40 offshore leases in the Arctic and continues to invest millions of dollars into research into oil spill response and preparedness and other areas.

“This campaign is further proof that industry is fully committed to responsible offshore development in the region.”

AOGA CEO Kara Moriarty said environmental groups were wrong to claim that Alaskans are opposed to oil and gas development in the Arctic.

“Without the lease sale option, there is simply no prospect of future investment in the infrastructure which we need,” Moriarty said. “I can’t stress this enough: taking lease sales off the table now sends a clear message that the federal government is hanging a ‘closed for business’ sign on our state, at a time when we are already facing huge budgetary challenges. The administration must think about what impact this will have on Alaska.”

Last June, as part of the 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.

“The oil and gas industry’s impact on the economy of the Alaska is well known, [but] what is less well understood is the crucial role it plays in supporting homeland security in the Arctic,” Eshelman said. “This is a theme that the [advertisements] really emphasize.

“As the comments by Secretary Cohen…and others make clear, private sector enterprise, specifically oil and gas development, is a critical prerequisite to our national defense. We really shouldn’t be needlessly throwing it away, especially at a time of increasing international tension in the region.”

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 Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and in the Cook Inlet (see Daily GPI, March 15).

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced a bill last June encouraging the DOI to keep the Beaufort and Chukchi areas in the leasing program. He said the Obama administration has been under increasing pressure from environmental groups to withdraw the two regions in an effort to fight global warming.

Last March, the Obama administration removed the Mid- and South Atlantic area, extending from Virginia to Georgia, from the 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 Corporation; the Council of Alaska Producers; the International Association of Geophysical Contractors; and the National Ocean Industries Association.