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Attorney General Sullivan Asks Feds for New ANWR Notice

Anchorage, Alaska - Attorney General Dan Sullivan has called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a new "notice of intent" for its review of a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, questioning whether the current notice impermissibly excludes public comments on the prospect of oil and gas development on the ANWR coastal plain.

Sullivan's letter to ANWR Refuge Manager Richard Voss Monday followed up on concerns expressed May 11 by Governor Sean Parnell and came as the Alaska Department of Natural Resources also weighed in on defects in the proposed planning process.

The federal agency issued its notice of intent on April 7 to solicit public comments that would address "the desired future conditions of the refuge" and "the full range of purposes." But the notice expressly stated that it will not consider comments related to oil and gas development in ANWR, highlighting the fact that only Congress can open the coastal plain to oil and gas development: "Therefore, the Service does not have the authority to decide this issue, and we will not consider or respond to comments that support or oppose such development during the CCP process."

In his letter, Attorney General Sullivan suggested that the notice violates the service's duties under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because the agency is expressly required by these statutes to evaluate the impacts of oil and gas exploration in ANWR. Disallowing public comments on matters related to oil and gas development in ANWR "likely violates NEPA," he wrote.  "We therefore request that the Service issue a corrected Notice of Intent that complies with its legal obligations under NEPA." 

Voss also received a letter from the state's ANILCA coordinator, Sally Gibert, opposing new recommendations for wilderness designations. "Alaska is already home to half of the designated wilderness in the United States," Gibert wrote.

Governor Parnell last month touted the potential of the coastal plain: "Responsible oil and gas development in ANWR's coastal plain would provide a secure on-shore domestic supply source of energy for the nation, create tens of thousands of jobs throughout the country, and ensure the continued operation of the TransAlaska Pipeline System for years to come."

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