Begich objects to House Democrats’ NPR-A comment extension request

US Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alas.) let three US House Democrats know he did not approve of their request for the US Bureau of Land Management to add 30 days to the public comment period for the Greater Mooses Tooth draft supplemental environmental impact statement covering a proposed oil development within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A).

“We believe it is essential for the diverse array of stakeholders that depend upon or care about the fragile ecosystem of the North Slope to be given adequate time to fully understand and analyze the potential effects of the GMT-1 project,” Reps. Peter A. DeFazio (Ore.), the Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member; John D. Dingell (Mich.); and Betty McCollum (Minn.) said in their Mar. 12 letter to Neil Kornze, BLM’s principal deputy director.

ConocoPhillips applied to BLM on July 22, 2013, for right-of-way and related authorizations to construct, operate, and maintain a drill site, access road, pipelines, and ancillary facilities to support development of petroleum resources at GMT Unit 1.

BLM released the draft SEIS on Feb. 21, and will hold the final three of eight public meetings about it on Mar. 18 at Anaktuvuk Pass, Mar. 19 in Fairbanks, and Mar. 20 in Anchorage.

The proposed project would be the first commercial oil development within NPR-A and a potential model for development throughout the region, the representatives said in their letter. More time is needed “to ensure that public input is maximized and the cumulative impacts of this proposed development are fully understood,” they told Kornze.

Begich disagreed. “Extending a public comment period may seem harmless, but given the short construction seasons in Arctic Alaska, it likely would result in a year delay in this development project which has been the subject of excruciating study for more than a decade,” he said in his Mar. 13 letter to the House members.

“In other words, development in the NPR-A has been studied to death and the GMT development actually comes with reduced impact,” the senator continued. “It’s time to move forward on this promising development to help fill the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline and meet America’s energy needs.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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