Begich Cites Progress But Demands More Action On NPR-A Plan
Department of Interior Plan Makes Way for Chukchi, Beaufort Pipelines
Sen. Mark Begich today welcomed a new proposal to accommodate oil pipelines across the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), but reiterated his call on the Department of Interior (DOI) to ease restrictions on oil and gas development in the oil-rich eastern portion of the reserve.
Begich said he was pleased federal officials, including U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, listened to his persistent demands to allow oil development and shipment through the NPRA. Yet he said the department hasn’t done enough to clear hurdles for oil and gas development inside the NPRA necessary to produce more oil for shipment down the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline.
“I’m pleased we’re making progress developing the enormous oil and gas resources in Alaska’s Arctic. That development and oil transportation in NPR-A is a vital link in bringing Alaska’s offshore resources to market,” Begich said. “But unnecessary barriers remain to making additional acreage available for leasing. I’ll keep up the full court press on the Obama administration over the next few weeks to make sure our state’s onshore and offshore resources can be delivered to TAPS and to market.”
At issue is today’s release of a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the forthcoming NPR-A Integrated Area Plan. The plan will guide development of the NPR-A in coming years, and the final decision on the plan, a Record of Decision, is due within the next couple of weeks.
Begich had multiple meetings with U.S. Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes and Salazar on the NPR-A plan. In late August, Begich hosted a roundtable meeting with Hayes, producers and North Slope stakeholders. They met again this past September to discuss opening up strategic areas currently designated as off limits to leasing and infrastructure.
Potential pipeline corridors are one of the important issues in the department’s draft plan. Producers are examining future routes to carry oil and gas from wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, as well as from wells in the NPR-A itself, to TAPS. Begich believes Alaskans need more certainty in ensuring the opportunity for an economic and environmentally responsible route for pipelines across NPR-A to deliver Chukchi and Beaufort oil and gas to TAPS.
Begich has continuously pressed the administration to improve the working relationship between the DOI and North Slope residents and stakeholders, a request that is reflected in today’s final EIS. Begich has pushed DOI to heed requests from the North Slope community of Nuiqsut as well as Alaska producers in removing some of the development restrictions in the more oil-prone eastern part of the reserve, particularly to the south of Teshekpuk Lake.
President Harding created the Naval Petroleum Reserve in 1923. In 1976, Congress designated the area as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and transferred control of the reserve to the Bureau of Land Management. At 23.5 million acres, it is largest land management unit owned by the federal government. With over 200 exploration wells drilled since the 1940s, the reserve is thought to hold 900 million barrels of technically recoverable oil and 53 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to 2010 USGS estimates.