Shell’s decision to scrap its U.S. Arctic drilling program shocked and angered Alaska state officials and Native group leaders who have been among the oil giant’s most vocal supporters.
Alaska House Speaker Mike Chenault (R) spoke for many state oil supporters in describing Shell’s decision as “a punch in the gut.”
Ben Nageak, a Democratic state House member from Barrow, called Shell’s action “heartbreaking” for North Slope residents who had hoped to benefit from the company’s Chukchi Sea oil development.
Noting that production is steadily declining at the 40-year-old Prudhoe Bay oil fields, Nageak said Shell’s operation could have provided “another economic boom that could have propelled our young people and their children to better futures.”
Arctic Slope Regional Corp.’s president and CEO, Rex Rock Sr., shared those sentiments.
“We are looking for solutions on how we continue to sustain our local economies to support our communities,” Rock said. “Absent any responsible resource development onshore and offshore, we are facing a fiscal crisis beyond measure.”
Shell’s departure is especially a blow for company employees and contractors who have worked on the Arctic drilling program over the last seven years. This summer, Shell had roughly 400 workers in its Anchorage office and 3,000 contractors working in the field on the Chukchi operation.
Shell officials acknowledged yesterday that the company’s decision to leave Alaska is “hugely disappointing.”