Pleased That Area Will Be Opened To Drilling, Plus Protected For Wildlife
January 23, 2004
"It's great to see that through the BLM's planning process, they went to considerable lengths to develop a plan that will allow vital oil and gas development, but that also protects many special values within NPR-A.
"The subsistence activities for hunting and fishing are maintained so that local residents who rely on subsistence for food will continue their traditional lifestyles. The BLM has been mindful of protecting the important waterfowl and raptor habitat in the area. And the BLM's land plan protects recreational activities such as kayaking and canoeing in Kasegaluk Lagoon."
"The plan does all that while still permitting leasing of prospective energy tracts that may well contain the petroleum this country needs to lessen our growing dependence on imported oil. Additional leasing in NPR-A, while not Alaska's most prospective oil reserve, may produce significant oil to help our nation's economy. Such energy will help Alaska's economy and offset the declines from Prudhoe Bay to help us maintain oil flow through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. It is important for Alaska's future and for the nation's energy and economic security," said Sen. Murkowski during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Murkowski noted that the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that NPR-A may contain between 1.3 and 5.6 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil (total oil in place of 5.9 to 13.2 billion barrels) - an amount equal to what the U.S. imports from Saudi Arabia in three to six years. While not as large as the potential discoveries in the Arctic coastal plain to the East, Murkowski said every little bit of economic oil is helpful to lessen the nation's growing dependence on foreign oil.
Murkowski noted the entire reserve is also predicted to contain between 40.4 and 85.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, some of it in the 8.8-million acres of the Northwest planning area of NPR-A covered by this decision.
Murkowski, during the signing ceremony by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, praised the administration for moving to facilitate environmentally sensitive oil leasing in one of the few prospective federal tracts in Alaska open to energy development. "The Secretary and the Department deserve great credit for developing a solid plan for the area while furthering the Department's multiple-use mandate," said Murkowski.
She said she was pleased that the plan should facilitate oil and gas leasing in the area of from 3 to 5 million acres, as early as next June. She said the plan meanwhile protects important habitat by deferring leasing on 1.5 million acres (17 percent of the planning area) in the area near Wainwright for the next 10 years, by beginning work to designate 102,000 acres of the Kasegaluk Lagoon as a Special Area, preventing surface occupancy in coastal areas, deepwater lakes, key rivers and in the lagoon to protect waterfowl (16 percent of the area), and by requiring studies to protect habitat for the spectacled and Steller's eiders and yellow-billed loons.
In her remarks introducing fellow Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, Murkowski noted that the comprehensive energy bill, still pending Senate approval, contains legislative provisions to help NPR-A oil leasing. Under current law NPR-A leases have a primary term of 10 years with the potential for two, three-year extensions. The new energy bill contains a provision by the Alaska Delegation to permit up to 10-year lease renewals.
"This is a piece of unfinished
business that is important for future NPR-A leasing. Providing
industry with longer lease renewals will provide the needed incentive
for companies to invest the resources necessary to find and produce
oil and gas in the Far North. It is an important change in the
NPR-A leasing process, if we are to encourage enough exploration
to unlock the true potential of this energy frontier," said
Murkowski, who said she continues to press for passage of the
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