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Begich presses top Interior official on NPR-A development

Sen. Mark Begich today met with Deputy U.S. Interior Secretary David Hayes to continue the push for access to the most productive oil and gas acreage in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). The meeting follows the Department of the Interior’s announcement in August of a preferred management plan for NPR-A.

“I made it clear today Alaskans see NPR-A as a critical bridge between offshore development and filling the pipeline,” Begich said. “As Secretary Salazar said yesterday, our country needs NPR-A to fuel our future. Over the next three months, I will be working double-time to find the right balance in the NPR-A for Alaskans where we’re able to deliver on- and off-shore resources to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline – along with jobs and revenue for Alaskans and for the state.”

Potential pipeline corridors are one of the important issues in the department’s draft plan.  Developers 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 the Trans Alaska Pipeline.

Begich pressed Hayes on that issue during the meeting, urging him to reconsider specific boundaries currently designated as off limits to leasing and infrastructure. In some cases, adjustments of just a few miles would provide access to reservoirs containing multiple millions of barrels of oil.

“It’s not just about the total number of acres when it comes to access in the reserve,” Begich said, “it’s about which specific acres. While balancing protections for subsistence resources, we’re trying to make sure the proven resources are accessible when this plan is completed.”

The senator also urged Hayes to work to strengthen outreach to North Slope stakeholders on both the current land plan and any development moving forward.

Begich has invited Hayes to Alaska in mid-October to discuss the issue further.

“Like it or not, we have to work with the feds and have a voice in the process, and that’s what these meetings are about,” Begich said.

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