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Alaska Delegation Seeks Timely Resolution of NPR-A Permitting Issue

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Mark Begich and Congressman Don Young recently sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jo-Ellen Darcy regarding the Corps' decision to reconsider part of its previous rejection of a plan to drill in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A).

In February, the Corps rejected a plan by ConocoPhillips to reach its lease holdings on the eastern edge of NPR-A, a prospective satellite of its Alpine oil field known as CD-5, by constructing a gravel road and bridge across the Coleville River. Instead, the Corps determined that a buried pipeline and the use of horizontal drilling would have less of an environmental impact. ConocoPhillips appealed and, last week, the Corps agreed to revisit the decision.

Alaska's congressional delegation said the alternative proposed by the Corps would severely limit future access to the nation's largest petroleum reserve and failed to take into account five years of environmental study and exhaustive consultation with tribal, local, state and federal stakeholders to determine the best option for the residents of the region.

The delegation's letter requests the Corps expedite ConocoPhillips' appeal in order to provide some level of regulatory certainty to the company.

The letter also questions the Environmental Protection Agency's unilateral decision to declare the Coleville River an "aquatic resource of national importance" with no public notice or opportunity for comment. Murkowski has asked the EPA to clarify how such a determination, which can kill a project, is made and what appeal process is available.

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