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Drilling in the Alaskan Wilderness Report

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Updated: Jan 7th, 2019


Ethics are key issues in project management. They entail moral values, rules and regulations as well as beliefs that are observed in a given task. Basically, it is differentiating what is right from wrong. While managing a project, there are various things and parties that are involved.

An organization should therefore not completely look at the benefits or even staff motivation. Instead, it should focus on all the parties involved. In other words, it should be ethical. This means that it should not only consider its employer and employee but also corporate citizen.

Corporate citizen in this case refers to the community around the project and their environment. It is important to note that sometimes upholding ethics in such a case may involve making difficult choices but all in all ethics should not be compromised. In this report, our case study project is drilling in Alaska. The mandate of this report is to study the project in relation to ethical issues encountered in its management.

Drilling in Alaska

The Alaskan economy is characterized by oil and gas industry. In fact a big percentage of its revenue is obtained from petroleum and its products. However, other activities such as fishing and agriculture of both plants and animals are used as source of revenue for its economy.

The reason for drilling in Alaska is because it’s inland and offshore is well endowed with energy reserve. Crude oil deposits have been identified in areas such as Prudhoe Bay, North Slope and Cook Inlet basins. Two million barrels of oil have been recorded to be extracted by Trans Alaska Pipeline every day.

In addition, the country benefits from bituminous, sub bituminous and lignite. The region is also a source of hydroelectric power, wind as well as geothermal energy. Oil drilling in Alaska is thus an important factor in the economy of that nation. It has resulted to industrialization which has increased the income and has improved quality of life for its population (Callicott, 1999).

Ethical Issues

Arctic Ocean

Arctic Ocean is one of the unique features in Alaska and America at large. Important decisions whether to drill offshore oil and gas in the area is a concern of many. With its operating condition and its inability to cope with the spilled oil in the waters, the people involved should employ project management ethics so as to decide on whether to continue with their activities or not in order to favor the community that depend greatly on the ocean.

The Arctic Ocean is not only beneficial to the community in terms of nutritional provision but also it is a heritage of their cultural well being. Oil and gas drilling would therefore mean threatening the community of people, environment including air and water as well as wildlife that rely on the ocean.

Oil and gas planning project has already forced the community and other conservation organizations to come forward in order to protest against the action. However, it is important to note that this may not help much. The problem can only be resolved once ethical values are employed. In other words, the decisions that will be arrived at will adhere to human rights and environmental laws.

Considering that there has been human community that has dwelt in the region for very many years and their life has revolved around the region, it would be unethical to drive them away in the name of self interests. The Inupiat people have depended on the ecosystem for centuries for resources including sea foods such as fish and seabirds. The water from the ocean is also used to farm around the region and this have always yielded large amounts of harvests.

Moreover, the Arctic Ocean is not only important to those around it but also to the other regions. This is because it plays an important role in climatic condition of these regions. It acts as the air conditioner of the earth in general. In addition, it would be unethical to create one problem while trying to solve the other. For example it would not make sense if they extinct some of the world’s rare species that are found in the region.

They include more than for hundred and fifty types of fish, over ten millions of seabirds, twenty five marine mammals as well as coral gardens around the ocean. Other treasures that would be destroyed are Islands, Bristol Bay and Bering Sea. These would be in the name of producing oil and gas that can be obtained using other methods or be substituted using modern science and technology (CRS Report RL30290, 1999)

Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)

There has been a conflict between the project management team, policy makers and specialists in various fields concerning the drilling in the ANWR. The project management team is faced with two conditions; one a situation in which if the project is carried out, it will result to numerous benefits. This is despite considering the management ethics. In this case, the need to drill oil and other economic interests seems reasonable hence outweighing the environmental issues.

This will automatically translate to violation of ethics. In addition, it has resulted to conflict. The environmental specialists are against the action unlike economic experts who are for the idea. On the other hand, there is a situation in which project management ethics can be upheld. This means that the project will not be carried out because they have put into consideration the environmental impact and the local population (CRS Report RL31278, 2002).

ANWR drilling would mean destruction of natural resources and values. In addition it will lead to violation of other laws that has been established to protect the area. These include the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. It is thus evident that the drilling will create imbalance in the unique wildlife and wilderness that is characterized by habitats and species as well as affecting recreational values negatively.

The wildlife such as the caribou is affected negatively. This includes its migratory and mating patterns as well as exposure to predation. This is because they will be destructed once their paths to the shore are drilled. Moreover, environmental issues do not only entail wildlife but also environmental pollution. Spillage of oil and other pollution that come with drilling can not be avoided in such a situation. This will continue affecting the water and plantations that support life in the wilderness (Nelleman and Cameron, 1998).

The management team has thus a difficult situation in which it has to undertake what they believe in. Moreover, the decisions should also actively involve all concerned parties.

This involves the community around the project as well as the whole nation. This is because when the project is carried out the community will experience the negative impacts while the nation will benefit from it. However, in the long term, the nation will suffer from the environmental deterioration. Project management team in this case has to weigh the benefits versus environmental destruction.

Alaska’s Spill Problems

Alaska drilling is also faced with a challenge of spills. It has been recorded that both onshore and offshore sources of gas and oil have been causing spill problems in the nation. This is due to their inadequate pipelines and lack of proper safety measures. The problem is being addressed by the administration.

However, for the problem to be addressed there has to be regulation on the pipelines which has to be done by other organizations. This is against the wish of the oil management organizations. Regulation would mean that they adhere to certain requirements such as transmitting 49 CFR195 in their pipelines. In addition, there have been cases in which spillage occurs and the management gives false reports on the incidents.

For example in the Alaska’s 2010 report, they recorded 640 gallons spills per year. This did not match the report of conservation department in the country. In this case the integrity of the project management team is questioned. Violation of ethics in project management is evident. This is because the team is aware of the negative impacts of the spillage on the environment and wildlife but choose not to disclose the truth because it would mean regulation and thus reducing the benefits of the activities (Revkin, 2001).

National Petroleum Reserve Alaska

Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act (NRPRA) outlines that the secretary is responsible for leasing of the lands in the reserve. This means leasing it for the purpose of producing oil and gas or choosing to protect the wildlife, fish and natural heritage. It is unethical for National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPRA) to encourage oil drilling to create energy while at the same time ignoring the protection of important resources such as archeological and paleontological resources and lives of numerous marine animals and birds.


Alaska’s wilderness is comprised of unique, natural and complex ecological units. It is therefore unacceptable to carry out activities such as oil drilling in the region because it would translate to destruction of ecosystems. Ethically speaking, the project management team is responsible for taking a rational approach to Arctic.

That is, it should carry out studies and provide information to the appropriate agencies about drilling activities and the risks they pose on the Arctic environment. In addition, they should adhere to the set standards on the drilling activity so as to protect the unique wildlife and environment. Finally, the management team should accept that there are places in which the uniqueness and natural resources outweigh the need for oil and gas. With that in mind, they should not carry out the drilling activities.

However, this has not been the case. To them they consider the activities associated with drilling more beneficial than the life that will be destroyed. The wildlife and environmental pollution will be experienced with introduction of drilling. This will also affect the people negatively. This is against the code of ethics in project management. It would be appropriate to make decision with local communities in mind and if drilling has to be done it should be regulated with modern technology so as protect humans and their environment.


Callicott, J. (1999). Beyond the Land Ethic. Albany: SUNY Press.

CRS Report RL31278, (2002). Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Background and Issues. June, 11, 119.

CRS Report RL30290, (1999). Domestic Oil and Gas Producers: Public Policy When Oil Prices Are Volatile. November, 12.

Nelleman, C. & Cameron, R. (1998). Cumulative Impacts of an Evolving Oil-field Complex on the Distribution of Calving Caribou. Canadian Journal. of Zoology, 76, 1425.

Revkin, C. (2001). Hunting for Oil: New Precision, Less Pollution. New York Times, 30, D1-D2.

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