Politics in the Postwar American West by Richard Lowitt

By Richard Lowitt

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Scarification of the tundra ("arctic graffiti") inflicted by the tracks of exploratory "cat" (caterpillar tractor) trains received a lurid high profile in conservation journals. Indignation also ran high over piles of trash, notably the fifty-five-gallon fuel drum. Rates of biodegradation in the Arcticwhose lack of precipitation qualifies it for desert statusare as slow as in the Grand Canyon. It had become a commonplace observation that no natural environment, with the possible exception of the hot deserts, was as poorly equipped to withstand and conceal the traces of industrial humankind and its technology as the arctic cold desert.

Many opinions expressed in the body of the statement did not uphold the official conclusion concerning national security. Certain federal officials denied that arctic oil would significantly reduce dependence on imports, dismissed the contention that Canadian involvement was a security threat, and conceded the environmental advantages of a Canadian route. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, the vulnerability of American sea lanes had been the primary justification for choosing an interior route for a highway to geopolitically strategic yet exposed Alaska.

S. Army Corps of Engineers. Their reports accepted the need for arctic oil development and repeated the economic and security arguments for Alyeska's pipeline but believed the draft EIS paid insufficient attention to the threat of pollution in Prince William Sound, with its implications for Alaska's biggest employer (if not biggest earner), the fishing industry. Many Americans, including prominent federal experts, remained unconvinced that Alyeska could build a pipeline that could withstand Alaska's environmental hazards and would not hurt the environment unduly.

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