Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today signed the record of decision for the Bureau of Land Management’s integrated activity plan for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, or NPR-A. The record of decision confirms the selection of a plan option with high levels of environmental protection, making about 11.8 million acres of the 23 million-acre reserve available for oil and gas leasing while placing large environmentally sensitive areas off limits, including areas around Teshekpuk Lake, Smith Bay and Admiralty Bay in the northern part of the reserve.
In announcing the record of decision, Interior said today that the decision addresses two key issues identified when Salazar released the findings of the environmental impact statement for the plan. Those two issues consist of concerns about the possible need to be able to construct oil pipelines through NPR-A from future oil developments in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and the need for consultation with North Slope communities over NPR-A planning.
“The record of decision provides explicit confirmation that potential pipelines carrying oil or gas from operations in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas can be constructed through the NPR-A,” Interior said.
And, following further consultations with North Slope communities, the record of decision requires the Bureau of Land Management to establish an NPR-A working group, including of representatives from North Slope tribal entities, Native corporations and local governments.
“The NPR-A working group will provide input on the full range of management issues and possible future development in the NPR-A, including pipelines and related oil and gas infrastructure development,” Interior said. The agency also said the working group will act as a forum for gathering scientific information and traditional knowledge about wildlife population and needs.
The working group “can inform potential adjustments to the boundaries of special areas including, for example, potential future adjustments to the southernmost boundary of the Teshekpuk Lake special area,” Interior said.
In November Bud Cribley, the Bureau of Land Management’s Alaska director, said that decisions in the NPR-A plan might be changed “at later dates,” depending on factors such as future development on the North Slope.
See story in March 3 issue, available online at 11 a.m. Friday, March 1 at www.PetroleumNews.com