Alaska’s Democratic senator isn’t satisfied with the Interior Department’s progress in letting oil and gas development move forward in a petroleum-rich part of his state.
Yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a plan allowing for the development of 72 percent of the “estimated economically recoverable” oil in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.
“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.”
Salazar also issued a memo to the Bureau of Land Management 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.
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) said he was satisfied that federal officials listened to his persistent demands to allow oil development and shipment through the reserve.
“I’m pleased we’re making progress developing the enormous oil and gas resources in Alaska’s Arctic. That development and oil transportation in NPR-A is a vital link in bringing Alaska’s offshore resources to market,” Begich said. “But unnecessary barriers remain to making additional acreage available for leasing. I’ll keep up the full court press on the Obama administration over the next few weeks to make sure our state’s onshore and offshore resources can be delivered to TAPS and to market.”
A final decision on the plan — which reaped more than 400,000 comments from the public — is due with the next couple of weeks.
For more certainty in local economies, Begich wants the approved pipeline routes to be nailed down.
He also has been continuously pressing the administration to improve the working relationship between the Interior Department and North Slope residents and stakeholders.
With over 200 exploration wells drilled since the 1940s, the reserve is thought to hold 900 million barrels of technically recoverable oil and 53 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to 2010 USGS estimates.