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Federal Government Dodges Responsibility to Protect Arctic Ecosystem

Resolution Demands BLM Clean Up Its Abandoned NPR-A Drill Sites

(JUNEAU) – For more than 30 years the federal Bureau of Land Management has ignored its responsibility to clean up approximately 130 abandoned exploratory oil and gas wells drilled by the federal government in the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska. Representative Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, introduced House Joint Resolution 29 on the first day of the 2012 session to bring attention to the problem and encourage BLM to finally be accountable for this travesty.  

“If a private company left this mess behind it would be slapped with fines in the billions of dollars and demonized by media outlets and environmental organizations,” said Representative Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage. “Because the state can’t fine the federal government we can’t force it to take action. Federal agencies like the BLM stonewall private sector oil and gas exploration in the name of protecting the environment - but ignore its own wells that pose an immediate threat to the arctic ecosystem. This is really a disgrace. It is outrageous that we allow our own government to pollute our state. The hypocrisy of these violations is blatantly obvious when responsible developers are constantly waylaid by environmental groups and the federal government claiming to want to protect Alaska but turning a blind eye to these flagrant violations.” 

Known as legacy wells, the U.S. Geological Service and the U.S. Navy drilled about 137 wells in NPR-A between 1944 and 1981. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission reports only seven have been property plugged and cleaned up. The remaining sites are littered with scrap metal and wood, rotting buildings and rusting barrels. The unplugged wells also threaten to contaminate ground water. Three wells can no longer be found.

BLM claims it does not have any money to clean up its mess. Rep. Millett’s resolution points out that BLM received more than nine billion dollars from oil and gas lease sales in NPR-A and Alaska’s outer continental shelf.

Environmental groups and the news media wouldn’t hesitate to pounce on a private oil and gas company for the same behavior. It is time to bring public pressure on the federal government and get the well sites cleaned up before any more environmental damage is done.        

Four representatives have already signed on as co-sponsors of HJR 29 and it has been referred to the House Resources Committee.

 

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