US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar released an integrated activity plan and final environmental impact statement allowing for development of about 72% of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska’s crude oil supply.
He also affirmed that the IAP’s preferred alternative would allow construction of pipelines from the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas across the NPR-A.
Salazar released the IAP and final EIS Dec. 19. A notice of availability of about 75 documents is scheduled to appear in the Dec. 28 Federal Register. That will start a minimum 30-day review before Salazar issues his final decision in early 2013.
He said that the IAP and final EIS cover the entire reserve, including 9.2 million acres in the southwest area. Plans would allow access to estimated reserves of 549 million bbl of crude oil and 8.7 Tcf of natural gas in 11.8 million acres, Salazar said.
No bar to pipelines
In a memorandum to US Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Mike Pool, Salazar said the final NPR-A plan “should state with clarity” that construction of pipelines from possible future Beaufort and Chukchi Sea oil production areas will be allowed.
“In particular, while construction approaches will need to take into account sensitive values associated with special areas and river crossings, nothing in the IAP-EIS is intended to act as a bar to potential pipelines or otherwise make construction of such pipelines impracticable,” he continued.
Specifics of any proposed pipeline would need to be addressed in a subsequent public process under the National Environmental Policy Act, Salazar emphasized.
“We should be clear that this IAP does not preclude any such potential pipeline applications,” he told Pool.
Alaska’s two US senators were critical. Republican Lisa Murkowski, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member, and Democrat Mark Begich separately welcomed Salazar’s statement that the IAP and final EIS do not preclude pipelines, but said they would continue to press for access to more NPR-A acreage. Murkowski said she remains concerned that the plan sets up roadblocks to an economically feasible pipeline project.
Environmental organizations said that the IAP and final EIS reflected a balanced approach.
“This is a fair decision that serves the nation well,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society. “The oil industry will have access to 72% of the economically recoverable oil in the reserve, but special areas such as Teshekpuk Lake will have well-deserved protections from development, as Congress intended.”
Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., which operates the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, told OGJ it was encouraged Salazar recognized the need to provide a corridor across NPR-A for pipelines.
Contact Nick Snow at email@example.com