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Biden administration moves to restrict oil, gas leasing areas of the NPR-A

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 4:08 PM AKST
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - President Joe Biden’s administration announced on Monday that it is planning to use an oil and gas leasing management plan for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska that would close off almost half of the 23-million acre area from development.

The management plan is known as the “no action alternative” and is detailed in the Bureau of Land Management’s 2020 record of decision for the reserve. It would revert management of the reserve back to a 2013 plan used by President Barack Obama’s administration

On Monday, environmental groups applauded the news. There has been particular concern about the potential impacts of development to nesting birds and migrating caribou in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area and in the Colville Special Area.

Andy Moderow, state director of the Alaska Wilderness League, called the planned protections for those areas “a step in the right direction.” He said more needs to be done to protect wildlife and subsistence resources in the reserve and to combat climate change.

”The NPR-A, by law, needs to be managed to protect surface resources and that is something the Trump plan did not do,” he added.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Alaska’s Republican congressional delegation strongly opposed the bureau’s announcement, calling the plan “beyond ridiculous.”

“All this is going to do is make the lawyers rich, Alaska poor and America less secure,” Dunleavy said.

The North Slope Borough and the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. also announced their opposition to the plan. A joint press release stated that they believe it “diminishes Alaska Native self-determination by ignoring the needs, concerns and input of the local people who live, work and subsist in and around the NPR-A.”

The Bureau of Land Management of Alaska announced through a press release that a new record of decision could be prepared, formally confirming the management plan. The agency will “continue its longstanding engagement and consultations with communities in Alaska about the management of the NPR-A,” the press release stated.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated in 2002 that the reserve contains roughly 8.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and almost 60 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Management of the area has long been contentious.

The Alaska Wilderness League, and several other groups, sued federal agencies in February of 2021, alleging that former President Donald Trump had made an “unlawful” push to open up 82% of the reserve for development.

Alaska’s congressional delegation welcomed the Trump administration’s decision, announced less than three weeks before Trump left office, as a way to balance Alaska’s economic needs and environmental concerns.

Dunleavy linked the Biden administration’s new reserve management approach to recent decisions to block logging of the Tongass National Forest and to suspend development of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He said his administration is exploring how it can push back against the current federal government’s approach to resource management in Alaska.

“They’re pandering to their extreme environmental base at the expense of Alaska and Alaskans,” Dunleavy argued.

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