Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the Bureau of Land Management’s selection of a preferred alternative for the integrated activity plan for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, or NPR-A. The preferred option — known as alternative B-2 — consists of the highest environmental protection option of four alternatives presented in BLM’s draft plan for the reserve, but with reductions in the sizes of some special areas designated for environmental protection and with no recommendations for wild and scenic river designations.
The preferred alternative would make about 11.8 million acres of NPR-A available for oil and gas leasing. This land is estimated to hold about 549 million barrels of discovered and undiscovered economically recoverable oil and approximately 8.7 trillion cubic feet of economically recoverable natural gas, “the vast majority of projected oil resources in the NPR-A available for leasing,” Interior said in a release accompanying Salazar’s announcement.
The preferred alternative also allows for the possibility of future pipelines and other infrastructure to support offshore oil and gas production in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, Interior said.
“The proposal would allow us to continue to expand our leasing in the NPR-A, as we have done over the last three years, and to build on our efforts to help companies develop the infrastructure … to bring supplies of petroleum products online,” Salazar said in announcing the preferred alternative. “This plan also strikes an important balance by recognizing the need to protect America’s treasures in the Arctic, from the raptors of the Colville River and the polar bears of the Beaufort Sea coast, to Teshekpuk Lake, Peard Bay, and some of the largest caribou herds on Earth.”
The proposed plan will make about half of the total area of the NPR-A available for leasing and will provide a roadmap for the transition from leasing through cautious exploration to “smart development,” Salazar said.
Under the plan a large area of land in northern NPR-A, around Teshekpuk Lake, Smith Bay and Admiralty Bay would be off limits to oil and gas leasing. Many in the oil industry view this land, especially land immediately south of the Beaufort Sea coast, as particularly prospective because of the proximity to a major geologic structure called the Barrow Arch, a structure closely associated with major North Slope oil fields.
See story in Aug. 19 issue, available online at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 17, at www.PetroleumNews.com