This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 19, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right here "On the Record," former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin showed you ANWR and told you why she supports oil drilling there. There is a lot of support in Alaska for her view, but not everyone agrees. Many people say drilling is a bad idea. Why? Joining us live from Anchorage, Alaska, is Peter Van Tuyn. He's a conservationist and environmental lawyer and against drilling in ANWR. Good evening.
PETER VAN TUYN, ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY FOR ALASKAN TRIBES: Hi, Greta, thank you for having me.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you for joining us. Now, it seems to me that there are four big issues. There's the economic issues, national security, environmental, and aesthetic. We've gone over a lot of these issues the past couple of days for people in favor of the drilling. Tell me why drilling in ANWR is bad idea, because I know you're opposed to it?
VAN TUYN: Sure. We have incredible and immeasurable values in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, from a wilderness perspective, wildlife, from a human rights and science perspective. And each of these values is irreplaceable.
And to drill there would undercut and actually harm these values in very fundamental ways. And therefore, we shouldn't be doing it.
And we don't need to do that either. The United States is full of capable people. We know that oil is a finite resource. Why not go forward and take great strides to protect the refuge take an energy future that doesn't require us to drill these special places and leave our kids a great quality of life and a cool place like the arctic refuge.
VAN SUSTEREN: It seems to me most people agree we would like to get rid of our addiction for oil. We got ourselves into this mess, no question about that. If there is drilling to go on in ANWR we are not going to see benefits for about 10 years. So it is not like it is going to change tomorrow.
But I'm curious, in looking at ANWR there, seemed to be two distinct areas. One is the most majestic, beautiful mountain ranges, absolutely fabulous. And then there is the coastal plain, and we are showing that video now. I think it is about 30 to 60 miles south of the coastline, which it doesn't look like there's much going on there.
And I'm told, correct me if I'm wrong, that the drilling would just able small portion of that. Is that wrong?
VAN TUYN: I think it is wrong on a couple of points.
First of all, the coastal plain of the arctic refuge is about 1.5 million acres is considered by the scientists to be the biological heart of that refuge.
And think about this -- in a two week period in the summer the porcupine caribou herd calves on the coastal plain, and they have 35,000 babies in that two-week period. On the coastal plain you have over 160 species of birds. In every state of your viewers there's a bird that spends some portion of their life cycle on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain.
And it's also considered by scientists to be the most important land habitat in the United States for polar bears. And scientists say in the entire arctic, circumpolar arctic this place has the most diverse plant and animal species.
You mentioned that there's an idea of drilling being only a small area. That is simply not borne out. You yourself were over in the Prudhoe Bay area and you looked at the development there. This is 1,000 square miles of development, the size of Rhode Island. You can see it from space.
There's no way -- the National Academy of Sciences has looked at these issues carefully. They say that when you drill in a particular place you've made the essential trade off, their words, not mine, where you are necessarily industrializing an area by drilling it for oil and actually undercutting if not completely eliminating the other values of the area.
So to say it is only a small piece. Let's also remember that the arctic refuge coastal plain is only five percent of America's arctic coastal plain, that's it. From a science perspective keeping that area pristine is really important as a baseline so we can understand the impacts that are happening to the arctic from climate change or other activities from a wilderness perspective it is an incredible place. We've talked about the wildlife.
Let's not forget as well the people. For thousands and thousands of years they say time immemorial they have subsisted on the resources of the arctic refuge, and the core are the porcupine herd that calves on that coastal plain. And to the extent you undercut that coastal plain with drilling and harm those caribou you are going to impact the human rights and the future of those people there. And that is not right either.
VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of the caribou, I'm told that the caribou, with the drilling in the pipeline in the Prudhoe Bay area, that the size of the herd has not gone down. The second thing is I know you represent Alaskan native tribes. Do they themselves, are they opposed to it or in favor? I never had a chance to speak to them.
VAN TUYN: Sure. Let me address the caribou issue first. The porcupine caribou herd, the four herds here are the most valuable because their calving area is smaller than the calving area of the where the coastal plain can be 80, 130 miles wide.
Here it's 10 to 30 miles wide, and again there are 35,000 calves in a two week period, and they don't have displacement habitat. And that's the qualitative difference with the caribou to the west. And so scientists tell us they are incredibly vulnerable to development and climate change.
You're right, I represent conservation groups like the Alaska Wilderness League, and I also represent native groups and have in the past and the peoples on the south-side of the range. Yes they are vigorously opposed for those human rights reasons to drilling in the arctic refuge. There are other native -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.
VAN SUSTEREN: I'm running out of time and I have so many questions. I'm curious -- the fact that there have not been any spills in the Prudhoe Bay area or leaks, is that the least bit comforting or is that not relevant to you at all?
VAN TUYN: It's not right. There's over a spill a day in our north slope industry. And that's just a fact of life. We've had some big ones, really big ones.
But as a matter of course that essential trade off, and you had an oil executive on your show yesterday said it -- spills are just a part of doing business with the oil industry. That's the way it is. Whether it's in new areas onshore, offshore, it is the way it is.
And we have to recognize, if we are going to commit a particular area to this activity we are necessarily industrializing it, and that is not appropriate for over 100 percent of our arctic. Let's protect some of it. Let's designate the coastal plain wilderness. It deserves it for us and for future generations.
VAN SUSTEREN: Peter, thank you. It's an enormously important issue, and we are trying to look at it from all sides. And I hope you will come back as we continue to do segments on this because there's so much more to talk about. Peter, thank you.
VAN TUYN: Thank you so much for having me, Greta.