Alaskan officials rip feds on NPR-A

Map of northern Alaska showing location of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR-en:1002 area, and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA).

Map of northern Alaska showing location of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR-en:1002 area, and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA). (Map courtesy USGS)

House Bill 1964 would force the federal government to scrap its current management plan and environmental assessments for new ones. And it would require the federal government to hold annual lease sales in NPR-A.

Rep. Don Young cosponsored the bill, but was not there to explain his motives for it, because he’s big game hunting in Africa.

Jamie Connell, acting deputy director for the Bureau of Land Management, ticked off a list of reasons why the bureau opposes the bill, including:

“The timelines required by the bill, that may result in shortcuts to public involvement.” She added: “The suggestion that the Department pre-approve rights of ways on millions of acres of land that industry may never seek to develop.”

Connell said the bill’s requirement of scrapping existing management plans for a new one undermines the work the agency has already done.

She told the subcommittee on mineral resources the BLM supports oil and gas drilling in NPR-A.

But that was met with disbelief from a troika of Alaskans who say the federal government is blocking development.

“Interior’s record of decision also made the ability to build a pipeline across NPR-A to pump station one of the Trans Alaska Pipeline more uncertain,” said Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan.

North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower told the subcommittee she worries NPR-A will receive the same treatment as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“The concern that the North Slope Borough has is the record of decision that was made on the area that we felt would be better served for leasing and not made into a wilderness area,” she said.

And Richard Glenn, adding the corporate perspective, told the panel Interior did not involve tribes and Alaska Native corporations enough.

“Insufficient consultation with the Native landowners or municipalities in NPR-A,” he complained.

The future of the legislation is unclear. It needs to pass the House of Representatives – which is possible, then pass the Democratic controlled Senate, which is less certain.

As for the future of NPR-A, officials with BLM say it will hold another lease sale in November.

One last year drew bids from just two companies that totaled less than one million dollars.

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