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Vol. 12, No. 35 Week of September 02, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Pulling NPR-A out of limbo?

BLM shooting for late summer, early fall for Northeast NPR-A lease sale

Kay Cashman

Petroleum News

The situation described in the top, page 1 story of the Aug. 26 issue of Petroleum News has changed. “NPR-A in limbo … no lease sales planned until after 2008 election” has made way for this story, which carries a lease sale target date of “late summer or early fall of 2008,” per the federal agency in charge of oil and gas leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The change in scheduling is only a matter of a few months, but it may be enough time for successful bidders to get their leases issued before the next U.S. president takes office — an important consideration since the new president might not be as concerned about developing domestic supplies of oil and gas as President Bush has been.

On Aug. 29 the U.S. Bureau of Land Management told Petroleum News that it is now targeting “late summer or early fall of 2008” for the next NPR-A lease sale, as compared to December 2008.

Sharon Wilson, chief of BLM Alaska’s office of communications, told Petroleum News Aug. 29 that the date is “based on the current schedule for the Northeast NPR-A supplemental EIS.” The supplemental plan “includes additional information and analyses completed since 2005,” she said. “The draft supplement was released for public review and comment Aug. 24, and the comment period extends through Oct. 23. During the planning process the BLM is considering what lands may be appropriate for leasing and what mitigating measures may be required to protect the natural resources of the NPR-A. On completion of the National Environmental Policy Act process a definitive date will be set for a lease sale.”

2008 sale could include Northwest tracts

If the sale is held in the late summer of 2008, which would be sometime before the start of autumn on Sept. 21, there would still be time for the leases to be issued before a new president takes office, as leases are generally signed within 90 days after a sale and become legal the first day of the following month after they are signed.

If the 2008 NPR-A lease sale goes forward as planned, it will have been two years since the last NPR-A sale, which was Sept. 27, 2006, for the Northwest planning area.

That’s a far cry from the annual lease sale schedule BLM talked about implementing in mid-2006 (see the Oct. 30, 2005, issue of Petroleum News).

But a federal judge is largely responsible for delaying an annual lease sale schedule. U.S. District Court Judge James Singleton Jr. pulled all the Northeast tracts from the Sept. 27, 2006, NPR-A lease sale in a 9 a.m. ruling on the day of the sale, which was to have been the first combined lease sale for the petroleum reserve, offering tracts from both the Northwest and Northeast planning areas (see the Oct. 1, 2006, issue of Petroleum News).

Because of the ramifications of Singleton’s decision BLM did not schedule a 2007 combined lease.

The late summer, early fall 2008 NPR-A lease sale could include tracts from both the Northeast and Northwest planning areas.

“Further along in the planning process, the BLM will determine whether it will include tracts from the Northwest NPR-A in that sale,” Wilson said.



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