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Corps Decision Clears Way for Responsible Development of NPR-A

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Approves Surface Access to National Petroleum Reserve

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today welcomed a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to grant road access to the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) via construction of a bridge across the Colville River.

“Today’s decision clears the way for the National Petroleum Reserve’s first oil production,” Murkowski said. “NPR-A has long been cited as an example of the federal government’s commitment to domestic oil production, but in reality the gates to NPR-A have been locked by bureaucracy and regulatory red tape. The Corps’ revised decision finally unlocks those gates.”

The Corps permit authorizes construction of a drill pad, two valve pads, pipeline support structures, access roads and four bridge crossings for the development of the CD-5 site, located just inside NPR-A’s eastern border. ConocoPhillips has been working for nearly a decade to tap the oil and gas reserves at CD-5, a satellite of the company’s Alpine field on the North Slope.

“In May, the president pledged to increase safe and responsible oil production, and directed the Department of Interior to conduct annual lease sales in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve,” Murkowski said. “Today’s decision represents a victory for Alaska that was a long time coming. If the president wants to make good on his promise to increase oil production from NPR-A, he must take concrete steps to ensure that future projects are not subject to this type of unnecessary delay.”

The Corps permit represents the final hurdle to ConocoPhillips’ plan to connect CD-5 to pipelines and other infrastructure at Alpine. The bridge has the support of the North Slope Borough; the village of Nuiqsut; the Arctic Slope Regional Corp., which owns the subsurface rights to CD-5; and the Alaska Native village corporation for Nuiqsut, Kuukpik Corp. which owns the surface rights at CD-5.

As the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Murkowski has pressed the Corps and the Obama administration on an almost daily basis for the past two years in an effort to resolve the roadblocks to oil and gas development in NPR-A, and in Alaska in general. Among Murkowski’s efforts:

    On December 10, 2010, Murkowski wrote to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy to express her concerns about Corps’ decision to deny ConocoPhillips a permit to bridge the Colville River.

    On December 20, 2010, Murkowski publicly called on EPA Administrator Jackson to explain why the agency determined the Colville River deserved the designation of an Aquatic Resource of National Importance (ARNI), which triggered stricter environmental regulation.

    Also in December 2010, and again in September 2011, Murkowski sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy requesting a timely resolution of the permitting roadblocks facing the CD-5 project.

    On March 2, Murkowski questioned Interior Secretary Salazar about the department’s commitment to developing NPR-A’s oil and gas resources and the effect of the EPA designating the Colville River as an Aquatic Resource of National Importance. Murkowski’s questioning begins at the 44:30 minute mark.

    On March 16, Murkowski grilled EPA Administrator Jackson on why it was taking years to get required air permits for oil and gas projects in Alaska. Murkowski’s questioning begins at the 29:48 minute mark and again at the 99:29 minute mark.

    As a direct result of Murkowski’s appeal to the While House and Interior Secretary Salazar, Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes indicated the department’s support for the road and bridge approach in a May 3, 2011, letter to the Corps.

    In August, Murkowski brought Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee with oversight of the Interior Department’s budget, to Alaska to see the CD-5 project firsthand.

     In September, Murkowski sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy requesting a timely resolution of the permitting roadblocks facing the CD-5 project.

    At an October 12, Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on federal disaster response, Murkowski pressed Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Darcy on the Corps’ overdue decision on CD-5. The video is available here, Murkowski’s exchange with Darcy begins at the 66:06-minute mark.

    On December 5, the EPA and USFWS announced an agreement in principle to ConocoPhillips’ proposal to access its CD-5 project with a bridge across the Colville River.

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