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BLM to Review Proposed Drilling Project on NPR-Alaska

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management said Monday it will conduct environmental review for a proposed oil and gas production well in the 23 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A).  If approved, the Greater Mooses Tooth-2 (GMT2) project would be the second oil and gas development project authorized on federal lands in the NPR-A.

Last August, ConocoPhillips, Alaska Inc. (CPAI) submitted an application for a permit to drill that includes construction of a drill site, access road, pipelines, and other facilities to support development of petroleum resources within the GMT Unit (see Daily GPINov. 20, 2015).

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said he was pleased that the project will be reviewed. "At ConocoPhillips' request, I sent a letter of support to President Obama on this project," Walker said Monday. "We received a call from the White House earlier today to let us know of this announcement and to discuss the regulatory timeline for this project. With the Trans-Alaska Pipeline three-quarters empty, I am committed to working with our federal partners to spur production."

The GMT2 project proposal would locate a drill site within the Greater Mooses Tooth Unit on land currently managed by BLM that is selected for conveyance to the Kuukpik Corp., an Alaska Native corporation organized under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. The associated pipeline and access road would traverse both Kuukpik Corp. lands and federal lands within the NPR-A and connect to the Greater Mooses Tooth One (GMT1) development project, which was approved in February 2015 after its final supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) was completed in October 2014. The GMT2 site is eight miles southwest of GMT1 and about 20 miles southwest of CPAI's producing Alpine Field on state of Alaska lands.

The proposed development was originally analyzed in BLM's 2004 Alpine Satellite Development Plan (ASDP) and is also subject to the 2012 NPR-A Integrated Activity Plan (IAP), approved in February 2013. The BLM said it will prepare a supplemental EIS to the ASDP to evaluate new circumstances and information, including changes to project design, new data on climate change, and the 2008 listing of the polar bear as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.

A 30-day scoping period for the draft supplemental EIS begins with publication of a notice of intent in the Federal Register on July 29. The BLM is inviting public comment.

Nearly the size of Indiana, the NPR-A, located on Alaska's North Slope, is the largest single block of federally-managed land in the United States. By law, the BLM administers the NPR-A for the purposes of oil and gas development along with protection of areas containing significant subsistence, recreational, fish and wildlife, historical, or scenic value. The Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act of 1976, as amended, which transferred the NPR-A from the Navy to the Department of the Interior, mandates protection of these areas while also providing for development of oil and gas resources.

The BLM's 2013 Area-Wide Integrated Activity Plan identified 11 million acres in the NPR-A for protection of natural values, while making close to 12 million acres and 72% of the technically- and economically-recoverable oil available for development.  Currently, 207 authorized leases cover more than 1.73 million acres in the NPR-A. Since 1999, 10 lease sales in the NPR-A have garnered more than $261 million. In 2011, Obama directed the secretary of the interior to conduct annual oil and gas lease sales in the NPR-A. Lease sales had previously been held every two years.

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