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NEWS BULLETIN

July 29, 2003 --- Vol. 9, No. 74July 2003

State reconsidering Beaufort Sea deferrals for 2004 lease sale

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas is going to take another look at deferrals in its Beaufort Sea areawide leasing program.

The division said July 29 it is reevaluating two areas currently deferred from leasing for inclusion in the October 2004 Beaufort Sea areawide lease sale.

The two areas excluded from the state Beaufort Sea oil and gas lease sale include all offshore state acreage from Point Barrow to Tangent Point in the west (tracts 555, 557-573) and from Barter Island to the Canadian border in the east (tracts 1-39). The division said the western deferral was in response to concerns voiced by local residents who utilize the area for subsistence gathering activities and the eastern deferral was in response to local concerns related to the harvest of bowhead whales.

The decision to defer the tracts was made for the first Beaufort Sea areawide sale in 2000, even though the division said it believed "existing mitigation measures provide the necessary protection for subsistence activities." The division said in 2000 that it would annually review "available information for these lease tracts to determine whether to offer them in the future."

The division is now considering whether to include the tracts in the October 2004 areawide sale, and is seeking public and agency comment on the following questions: Should the deferrals remain intact? Can either deferral be reduced and still provide the intended protections? Should both deferrals be eliminated and all tracts offered in the 2004 lease sale? Are existing mitigation measures sufficient to protect subsistence gathering activities and bowhead whale harvesting?

Editor's note: See story in Aug. 3 issue of Petroleum News.

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