Washington, DC (KINY) The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program for public review and comment.
Congress specifically identified the Coastal Plain for its potential for oil and natural gas resources in Section 1002 of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA). Oil and gas from the Coastal Plain is an important resource for meeting our nation’s energy demands and creating employment opportunities for Alaska’s North Slope residents.
President Donald Trump said this furthers his administration's goal of resource development in the state.
"An energy-dominant America starts with an energy-dominant Alaska, and among the scores of accomplishments we have had at Interior under President Donald J. Trump, taking these steps toward opening the 1002 section of Alaska's North Slope stands out among the most impactful toward bolstering America's economic strength and security," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. "For decades, Alaskans on both sides of the aisle have overwhelmingly supported opening the 1002 to energy exploration and development. I commend the President for giving Alaskans a voice again in how their public lands are used and for his commitment to responsible development of the Coastal Plain."
"This draft reflects thousands of hours of work that demonstrate a commitment to the development of these documents and the range of alternatives," said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. "We look forward to a very robust public comment period to better inform our final decision."
"A 1987 Interior report to Congress fulfilling our requirements under ANILCA recommended the Coastal Plain for oil and gas development. Since completion of that report, numerous oil fields have been discovered near the Coastal Plain and oil field technologies have changed significantly," said Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management Joe Balash. "The depth of expertise in Arctic resources and issues from tribal members, state, local and federal agency staff was integral in developing a comprehensive Draft Environmental Impact Statement."
The publication of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Notice of Availability in the Federal Register on Dec. 28, 2018, will officially begin the 45-day public comment period. The release of the Draft EIS is the next step in implementing the provisions in the Tax Act for establishing and administering a competitive oil and gas program for the leasing, development, production, and transportation of oil and gas in and from the Coastal Plain area within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Alaska congressional delegation all support the resource development in ANWR. Governor Mike Dunleavy was among the officials that praised the decision. "Alaskans have anticipated the release of the draft environmental statement for decades," said Dunleavy. "My administration and Alaskans overwhelmingly support ANWR development, and we are eager to inform and educate our fellow Americans that it will be done utilizing the highest environmental standards and safeguards to protect its land, waters and wildlife."
“Continuing engagement with the communities most affected by this process is key in developing a comprehensive analysis,” said acting State Director Ted Murphy. “We received substantial input in the development of this draft from cooperating agencies and stakeholders throughout Alaska, our nation and Canada, and I look forward to continuing that engagement in this comment period.”
The first lease sale will be held after the Final EIS and Record of Decision is issued and will offer not fewer than 400,000 acres area-wide of high-potential lands for bid.
The BLM is seeking feedback on the alternatives to the proposed action within the parameters outlined in the Tax Act, which will inform the Final EIS and the Record of Decision. Substantive comments should be as specific as possible and can be submitted by a variety of methods. The BLM will hold public meetings in Anchorage, Arctic Village, Fairbanks, Kaktovik, Fort Yukon, Venetie, Utqiaġvik and Washington, D.C., at times and locations to be announced in local media, newspapers, and on the BLM website.
US Senator Lisa Murkowski issued the following statement this morning, One year ago, Congress directed the Department of the Interior to open the Coastal Plain for responsible energy development, and today marks a major step forward to making this a reality,” Murkowski said. “I appreciate the extensive time and attention the Department has dedicated to gather and consider feedback from all Alaskans, particularly the Inupiat and other stakeholders in the Alaska Native community. This input and cooperation will ensure we build a strong leasing program that helps us realize our tremendous energy potential without harming our environment or way of life.”
Congressman Don Young said this is the culmination of years of work, “I’ve fought for a long time to open the 1002 Area for oil and gas development, and this is a critical step toward reaching that goal. I want to thank Secretary Zinke and Assistant Secretary Balash for their hard work in producing this draft EIS, and look forward to continuing to work with DOI in 2019 to complete the assessment process,” Young said. “Opening the 1002 Area will allow Alaska to be a leader in energy development so we can continue the Trump Administration’s efforts to make our country energy independent.”
US Senator Dan Sullivan said this is a huge day for Alaska, "“I appreciate all the hard work and diligence the Department of Interior undertook to produce this draft Environmental Impact Statement in line with Congress’s statutory mandate from last year’s tax bill,” Sullivan said. “I am particularly pleased to see the serious and necessary considerations for the porcupine caribou that migrate through the region, as well as the abundant level of stakeholder input — including from the Alaska Natives in the area, the vast majority of whom support responsible drilling in the 1002. This Draft EIS brings us that much closer to unleashing America’s energy potential, filling up the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, boosting our economy, and providing good jobs for Alaskans, all while protecting the ecosystem in ANWR’s 1002 as we’ve done on the rest of Alaska’s North Slope for over 40 years.”
Comments on the Draft EIS will be accepted through Feb. 11 and can be sent by any of the following methods:
Attn: Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program EIS
222 West 7th Avenue, Stop #13
Anchorage, Alaska 99513.