Alaska relies on topographic maps that are over 50 years old. These maps, some of which were hand-drawn, are rife with inaccuracies. Rivers flow upstream, mountains are out of place and some features are missing altogether. This year, Alaska hopes to take a big leap forward by completing new maps for over half of the state.
The agency that oversees oil and gas drilling in the state says it doesn’t collect nearly enough money to clean up wells in case companies walk away. Regulators say the recent influx of small, private companies means Alaska risks shouldering the cost of abandoned wells. State lawmakers are receptive to addressing the issue.
Climate change has always been a sticky issue for Alaska policy makers. In a state that sits on the front lines of global warming but remains deeply dependent on oil, it sometimes seems like the easiest option is just not talking about it at all.