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Begich Statement on BLM Lease Sale in NPR-A

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich released the following statement today after Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the Interior Department will expedite a lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve- Alaska (NPR-A), holding it before the end of 2011 and annually after that:

"I am pleased to see the Obama Administration making good on its commitment to increasing domestic energy production on public lands, including in Alaska.

"During my trip home to Alaska earlier this month, I was assured by BLM Director Robert Abbey that new leases in the NPR-A would move forward this year as President Obama recently stated in a nationwide address.

"But as I've said  in the past, in order for progress to be real in the NPR-A, the Obama Administration will have to demonstrate a commitment to removing roadblocks that are currently preventing development such as ConocoPhillips' stalled CD-5 project just inside the reserve boundary.

"I look forward to resolution of that issue in the near future."


RELATED ITEM POSTED EARLIER June 16, 2011

Interior Implements Steps to Increase Responsible Domestic Energy Production
BLM to expedite 2011 Lease Sale in National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska; BOEMRE Announces Additional Details for Extensions of Gulf Oil & Gas Leases

WASHINGTON - In support of President Obama's strategy to spur domestic energy production on public lands, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that Interior would accelerate a lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), holding it before the end of this year and annually after that.  Secretary Salazar also announced additional details about the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement's (BOEMRE) one-year extension on oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico affected by last year's temporary suspension of deepwater drilling, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

"As part of President Obama's comprehensive energy strategy, Interior is moving ahead with these concrete steps to continue to expand responsible and safe domestic oil production," said Salazar. "In Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve, where there are estimates of great reserves of undiscovered oil and gas, we will hold a lease sale this year and work to hold future lease sales on an annual basis."

"We will also grant extensions of certain offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico that were impacted by disruptions caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the temporary suspensions of deepwater drilling," Salazar continued.  "By using existing authorities, we are providing offshore energy companies the time to meet important safety standards when it comes to exploration and drilling."

Accelerating Lease Sales in the NPR-A

The NPR-A is a vast area on Alaska's North Slope, west of Prudhoe Bay. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the reserve and adjacent state waters contain 896 million barrels of conventional, undiscovered oil and 53 trillion cubic feet of conventional, undiscovered non-associated gas. 

Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will publish a notice in the Federal Register in the near future announcing a 30-day period in which interested parties may nominate or comment on the available tracts in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A).

The BLM has conducted six lease tract sales in both the Northwest and Northeast Planning Areas of the NPR-A, each about two years apart.  Lease tracts were offered in the Northeast in 1999, 2002, and 2010; and in the Northwest in 2004 and 2006.  In 2008, lease tracts were offered in both the Northeast and Northwest planning areas.  The BLM currently administers about 191 federal oil and gas leases in the reserve. More information about the NPR-A is at http://www.blm.gov/ak/st.

Extending Gulf Leases

Today Salazar will also issue a Secretarial Memorandum directing BOEMRE to issue a Notice to Lessees and Operators (NTL) describing how operators can request one-year extensions for their qualifying deepwater leases. To qualify, leaseholders must demonstrate that there was no oil or gas production on the lease as of May 15, 2011; that the lease is in deepwater (depths greater than 500 feet); and that the lease is scheduled to expire on or before December 31, 2015.

The lease extensions will provide lessees and operators additional time to proceed with exploration and development of their leaseholds while fully complying with important new safety, environmental, spill response and containment requirements. 

President Obama announced both of these policies on May 14.  The President's commitment to safe and responsible domestic production is part of the Administration's overall Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, a broad effort to secure America's energy future and protect consumers by producing more oil at home and reducing our dependence on oil by using cleaner, alternative fuels and improving our energy efficiency.

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