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Begich Responds to Army Corps Refusal to Re-Open NPR-A Permit Decision

March 17, 2010 -- U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said he will continue working with all appropriate federal agencies, including the White House, to push for development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska as proposed by ConocoPhillips Alaska.

His efforts are in support of Conoco's proposal to construct a drill pad identified as CD-5 west of the Colville River Delta to supply the Alpine petroleum facility on the North Slope. Today, the Army Corps of Engineers rejected a request by the State of Alaska to re-open its permit denial for the development project.

"As its name clearly states, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska was set aside for exactly that - petroleum development. It's frustrating that Conoco's responsible development plan, which could lead to hundreds of jobs and millions of barrels of new oil in the Alaska pipeline was denied and now the request to re-open the decision was rejected  over a technicality," Begich said. "I'll continue to work every appropriate agency and official in the Obama administration to overturn this misguided decision."

Begich also expressed frustration that on July 10, 2009, shortly before former governor Sarah Palin left office after resigning, her administration failed to properly exercise its options under federal regulations which could have automatically elevated review of the permit to higher authorities in the Army Corps, potentially altering the final decision.

Under Title 33 of the Navigation and Navigable Waters code, if "the governor of the state in which the work would be performed" writes the Army Corps, the permit review automatically gets elevated within the Corps. Instead of then-Gov. Palin pursuing the elevation, a letter was submitted by the Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources.

In today's letter to the State, Army Corps District Commander Reinhard Koenig says the state's actions failed to meet the test for the automatic elevation.

Begich, who has been working with ConocoPhillips for weeks and talked to ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva today in Washington, already has engaged Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the Army Corp and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the issue. 

"Development in the NPRA is broadly supported by Alaskans, including the Alaska Native residents who live near it and Native corporations which would assist in the development," Begich said. "There's simply no reason not to give the green light for this responsible development."

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