Alaska Intervenes to Help Feds Open NPR-A for Development

Environmental groups seeking to prevent oil and gas development in coastal reserves will get no help from Alaskan lawmakers, as the state intervened to help the federal government's push to open more of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska for development.

Seven environmental groups are challenging plans by the Interior Department to develop the northeast area of the 23.5-million-acre reserve along the Arctic Coast. The plan calls for opening seven leasing areas, from 45,000 acres to 60,000 acres, north of the lake and other acreage south of the lake to oil and gas development.

Mark Morones, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Law, said the state opted to join the lawsuit because it has important economic and non-economic interests in the reserve, including 50 percent of the royalty interests from oil and gas production and wildlife habitat and subsistence issues.

Conoco Phillips and Anadarko are also seeking to intervene in the lawsuit (AP/Anchorage Daily News).

Meanwhile, an Alaskan legislative conference committee yesterday left $3.7 million in a spending bill for lobbying to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling with no debate on the matter.

The appropriation includes $3 million for an Oregon public relations company called Pac/West Communications for marketing campaigns in individual congressional districts to put pressure on lawmakers who are against drilling in the refuge. The other $750,000 would go to Arctic Power, the state's ANWR lobbyist since 1992, to work within Washington's Beltway and try to persuade ANWR holdouts to vote for the measure this year.

The bill is pending approval from the full state House and Senate (Matt Volz, AP/Anchorage Daily News).

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