President Obama has withdrawn Bristol Bay from all future oil and gas leasing.
The withdrawal, announced today, makes permanent a temporary withdrawal the president issued in 2010 that was set to expire in 2017. The administration said the "action builds on decades of local efforts to protect Bristol Bay from oil and gas development by Alaska Native tribes and organizations, as well as local seafood and tourism businesses that create jobs and strengthen Alaska and the nation's economy."
The North Aleutian Basin Planning Area, which includes Bristol Bay, consists of some 32.5 million acres. A portion was leased in the mid 1980s but never developed due to litigation.
A lease sale on some 5.6 million acres of the planning area was proposed by the Bush administration, but the area was temporarily withdrawn in 2010 under section 12 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which gives the president authority to withdraw offshore areas from potential oil and gas leasing.
"Given the lack of interest by industry and the public divide over allowing oil and gas exploration in this area, I am not objecting to this decision at this time," U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a statement.
But, the senator said, she does not understand why the decision couldn't have been made in the context of the administration's upcoming plan for offshore leasing.
- KRISTEN NELSON
See story in Dec. 21 issue, available online Friday, Dec. 19 at www.PetroleumNews.com