Plans Available for Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Wednesday the availability of the Integrated Activity Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final IAP/EIS) for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A). The preferred alternative identified in the EIS would allow for the development of 72 percent of the estimated economically recoverable oil in the Reserve while protecting the vital subsistence resources of Alaska Natives and the habitat of world-class wildlife populations.
Secretary Salazar also issued a memo to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) confirming that the preferred alternative will allow for the potential construction of pipelines carrying oil or gas from operations in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas through the NPR-A.
After receiving more than 400,000 public comments and following two days of meetings and visits with North Slope leaders, Salazar first announced the key elements of the Preferred Alternative (Alternative B-2) for the IAP/EIS in August. Release of the Final IAP/EIS today paves the way for the Secretary to issue a Record of Decision that adopts the final management plan in the first quarter of 2013.
"As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy to continue to expand domestic energy production, this comprehensive plan will guide the transition from leasing and exploration to responsible production and transport of the Reserve’s substantial oil and gas resources,” said Salazar. “A balanced approach will allow us to continue to expand our leasing in the NPR-A, as we’ve done over the last three years, while protecting significant caribou herds, migratory bird habitat and sensitive coastal resources that are critically important to the culture and subsistence lifestyle of Alaska Natives and our nation’s conservation heritage."
In the memo, Secretary Salazar also requested that the BLM engage in additional outreach to North Slope communities in the coming weeks, with an eye toward establishing a stakeholder group that will provide ongoing input on the management of protected areas and other NPR-A implementation issues.
The Notice of Availability of the Final IAP/EIS, which will be published in the Federal Register on Dec. 28, 2012, will start a minimum review period of 30 days prior to the issuance of a final decision by the Secretary. The Final IAP/EIS is the first management plan that covers the entire Reserve, including 9.2 million acres in the southwest area. Previous plans covered the northeast and northwest planning areas only. The comprehensive blueprint will allow for access to oil and gas resources on 11.8 million acres, which are estimated to hold 549 million barrels of economically recoverable oil and 8.7 trillion cubic feet of economically recoverable natural gas.
As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, domestic oil and gas production has grown each year the President has been in office, with domestic oil production currently higher than any time in nearly a decade and natural gas production at its highest level ever. Foreign oil imports now account for less than 50 percent of the oil consumed in America – the lowest level since 1995. In fiscal year 2012, Interior paid out $12.15 billion in revenue generated from energy production on public lands and offshore areas – a $1 billion increase over the previous year.
Following President Obama’s direction in May, 2011 that annual oil and gas lease sales be conducted in the NPR-A, BLM offered three million acres last December that generated 17 winning bids covering more than 120,000 acres. Another lease sale on November 7, 2012, offered 4.5 million acres and received 14 winning bids on 160,088 total acres. There are now 177 authorized oil and gas leases in the NPR-A, encompassing 1.4 million acres. To date, only exploratory drilling has occurred, but last year, with the assistance of the President’s Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska, the Corps of Engineers issued permits to ConocoPhillips to allow for the first commercial oil and gas production in the Reserve.
The Final IAP/EIS was developed through extensive consultations that considered the viewpoints of Alaskans who live in the region, tribal governments, the State of Alaska, industry, environmental organizations and other stakeholders and federal partners. The Bureau of Land Management received more than 400,000 public comments, and hosted a total of seven public meetings and Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) subsistence hearings in North Slope villages. Meetings were also held in Fairbanks and Anchorage.
The Draft IAP/EIS, released March 30, presented four management alternatives for the NPR-A for public comment. The Final IAP/EIS, includes Alternative B-2, a modified version of Alternative B, as the preferred alternative.
By law, the BLM administers the NPR-A for the purposes of oil and gas leasing, along with protection of areas containing significant subsistence, recreational, fish and wildlife or historical or scenic value. The Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act (which transferred the Reserve from the Navy to the Department of the Interior) mandates maximum protection of such areas while conducting an expeditious program of oil and gas leasing.
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