BLM Releases Draft EIS For Oil Lease Sales in ANWR Coastal Plain
By MARY KAUFFMAN
December 21, 2018
Congress specifically identified the Coastal Plain for its potential for oil and natural gas resources in Section 1002 of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA). Quoting a BLM news release, oil and gas from the Coastal Plain is an important resource for meeting our nation’s energy demands and creating employment opportunities for Alaska’s North Slope residents.
"An energy-dominant America starts with an energy-dominant Alaska, and among the scores of accomplishments we have had at Interior under President Donald J. Trump, taking these steps toward opening the 1002 section of Alaska's North Slope stands out among the most impactful toward bolstering America's economic strength and security," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. "For decades, Alaskans on both sides of the aisle have overwhelmingly supported opening the 1002 to energy exploration and development. I commend the President for giving Alaskans a voice again in how their public lands are used and for his commitment to responsible development of the Coastal Plain."
"This draft reflects thousands of hours of work that demonstrate a commitment to the development of these documents and the range of alternatives," said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. "We look forward to a very robust public comment period to better inform our final decision."
“A 1987 Interior report to Congress fulfilling our requirements under ANILCA recommended the Coastal Plain for oil and gas development. Since completion of that report, numerous oil fields have been discovered near the Coastal Plain and oil field technologies have changed significantly,” said Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management Joe Balash. “The depth of expertise in arctic resources and issues from tribal members, state, local and federal agency staff was integral in developing a comprehensive Draft Environmental Impact Statement.”
The publication of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Notice of Availability in the Federal Register on Dec. 28, 2018, will officially begin the 45-day public comment period. The release of the Draft EIS is the next step in implementing the provisions in the Tax Act for establishing and administering a competitive oil and gas program for the leasing, development, production, and transportation of oil and gas in and from the Coastal Plain area within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
"Alaskans have anticipated the release of the draft environmental statement for decades," said Alaska Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy. "My administration and Alaskans overwhelmingly support ANWR development, and we are eager to inform and educate our fellow Americans that it will be done utilizing the highest environmental standards and safeguards to protect its land, waters and wildlife."
“This is a significant milestone in Alaska’s long journey to responsibly explore and develop the 1002 area in ANWR,” Dunleavy said. “The potential oil discovered will spur new jobs and investments for generations to come, extending the life of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.”
“Continuing engagement with the communities most affected by this process is key in developing a comprehensive analysis,” said acting State Director Ted Murphy. “We received substantial input in the development of this draft from cooperating agencies and stakeholders throughout Alaska, our nation and Canada, and I look forward to continuing that engagement in this comment period.”
U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young (all R-Alaska) issued prepared statements yesterday after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the oil and gas leasing program on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
“One year ago, Congress directed the Department of the Interior to open the Coastal Plain for responsible energy development, and today marks a major step forward to making this a reality,” Sen. Murkowski said. “I appreciate the extensive time and attention the Department has dedicated to gather and consider feedback from all Alaskans, particularly the Inupiat and other stakeholders in the Alaska Native community. This input and cooperation will ensure we build a strong leasing program that helps us realize our tremendous energy potential without harming our environment or way of life.”
Murkowski is chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. She authored the second title of H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Congress passed exactly one year ago. The Act allows surface development of 2,000 federal acres of the non-wilderness Coastal Plain (0.01% of ANWR) for responsible energy development, which could bring an estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil to market. New production from the 1002 Area will refill the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System while also creating high-paying jobs, generating billions of dollars in revenues for the state and federal treasuries, keeping energy prices affordable for families and businesses, and strengthening national energy security.
“I appreciate all the hard work and diligence the Department of Interior undertook to produce this draft Environmental Impact Statement in line with Congress’s statutory mandate from last year’s tax bill,”Sen. Sullivan said. “I am particularly pleased to see the serious and necessary considerations for the porcupine caribou that migrate through the region, as well as the abundant level of stakeholder input — including from the Alaska Natives in the area, the vast majority of whom support responsible drilling in the 1002. This Draft EIS brings us that much closer to unleashing America’s energy potential, filling up the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, boosting our economy, and providing good jobs for Alaskans, all while protecting the ecosystem in ANWR’s 1002 as we’ve done on the rest of Alaska’s North Slope for over 40 years.”
“I’ve fought for a long time to open the 1002 Area for oil and gas development, and this is a critical step toward reaching that goal. I want to thank Secretary Zinke and Assistant Secretary Balash for their hard work in producing this draft EIS, and look forward to continuing to work with DOI in 2019 to complete the assessment process,” Congressman Young said. “Opening the 1002 Area will allow Alaska to be a leader in energy development so we can continue the Trump Administration’s efforts to make our country energy independent.”
Members of the Alaska Senate Majority also welcomed the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as a significant step toward opening the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for resource development.
“[Thursday’] announcement is the product of a thorough public process, one involving diverse communities of Alaskans across our great state,” said Senate President Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage), who attended EIS hearings in Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Washington D.C. “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the BLM did an outstanding job. Resource development has improved the lives of thousands living in the Arctic, lifting them out of poverty and enabling them to live longer, happier lives. Development in ANWR has the potential to improve the lives of thousands more.”
During the public scoping process, the BLM held public meetings in Washington D.C., Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kaktovik, Arctic Village, Utqiagvik and Venetie. The meetings were live-streamed, and the bureau accepted written comments. The BLM also outlined how Alaskans can also comment on the Draft EIS.
The environmental report was required under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (Tax Act), a tax overhaul supported by Alaska’s congressional delegation and signed into law by President Trump.
“Innovation is the key to growing our economy,” said Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello (R-Anchorage). “Responsible resource development will bring jobs, capital and opportunity to solve old problems in new ways. With today’s news, our state’s long-term economic future looks bright.”
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) greatly expanded the area that is now known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). As part of a great compromise from Congress, much of ANWR was preserved for wildlife, while a small fraction was envisioned for responsible resource development.
“This is a welcome, long-sought after decision point on this historical path,” said Senator John Coghill (R-North Pole). “Alaskans have overwhelmingly supported responsible development in ANWR. The federal government is finally following through on expectations from decades ago.”
In a statement released by President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife Jamie Rappaport Clark, “The administration’s Arctic Refuge leasing plan ignores science, turns a deaf ear to public opinion, attempts to skirt the law and paper over a disastrous decision that has already been made."
Clark said “Driven by its energy dominance agenda, the Trump administration is intent on selling off the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Big Oil, regardless of the cost to imperiled polar bears, the Porcupine caribou herd, hundreds of migratory birds and the Gwich’in people, who have depended on the coastal plain for millennia."
“We will see this administration in court soon for its reckless efforts to turn this iconic landscape into an industrial oilfield,” said Clark.
According to Defenders of Wildlife, The BLM's environmentally destructive, legally inadequate plan would sell off one of America’s last great wildlands to the highest bidder. They say the proposal fails to fully analyze the long-term impacts of converting wildlife habitat into an industrial oil field or the contribution of leasing and development to global climate change. The Trump administration’s scheme also declines to identify which of four proposed alternatives it has chosen for leasing the coastal plain, further obfuscating this rushed public planning process.The first lease sale will be held after the Final EIS and Record of Decision is issued and will offer not fewer than 400,000 acres area-wide of high-potential lands for bid.
The BLM is seeking feedback on the alternatives to the proposed action within the parameters outlined in the Tax Act, which will inform the Final EIS and the Record of Decision. Substantive comments should be as specific as possible and can be submitted by a variety of methods.
The BLM will hold public meetings in: Anchorage, Arctic Village, Fairbanks, Kaktovik, Fort Yukon, Venetie, Utqiagvik and Washington, D.C., at times and locations to be announced later in local media, newspapers, and on the BLM website (www.blm.gov)
Comments on the Draft EIS will be accepted through Feb. 11, 2019 and can be sent by any of the following methods:
The draft EIS will be published in the Federal Register on December 28, opening a 45-day public comment period that will close on February 11, 2019. Public hearings will be held throughout Alaska and in Washington, DC. More information is available here.
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