Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Gas Resources Committee, last week blasted the Obama administration's final environmental impact statement (EIS) on the land management plan that will guide oil and natural gas development in the years ahead in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), saying it would restrict access to more than 80% of the gas reserves.
"[The] plan locks up 83.5% of the likely natural gas in the reserve. That is totally unacceptable to the nation and to the future economy of Alaska," she said. Murkowski said she was concerned that the management plan chosen by the administration "greatly restricts access to our nation's oil and natural gas resources," especially in the eastern portion of the petroleum reserve.
"I recognize Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's effort in the memorandum to clarify that pipelines may be constructed across the petroleum reserve, [but] I remain concerned...that the plan sets up roadblocks to an economically feasible project. It's incumbent on the secretary to be clear in the record of decision that any future NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] review of potential pipeline routes and infrastructure not prohibit construction of an economic project. As written, the absence of clear direction in the EIS jeopardizes future oil and gas production development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas," Murkowski said.
"It's hard to have confidence in the plan given the discrepancies in the initial announcement," which signals that the administration will make 72% of the oil in the reserve open to development and allow for recovery of an estimated 8.7 Tcf of natural gas. "What the announcement doesn't say is that the plan locks up 83.5% of the likely natural gas in the reserve," she said.
Murkowski noted that just last year Interior placed the mean estimate of natural gas available from recovery from the reserve at 52.8 Tcf.
Mark Begich, the junior senator representing Alaska, was less critical than Murkowski, but he said Interior had not gone far enough to clear hurdles for oil and gas development inside the NPR-A "I'm pleased we're making progress developing the enormous oil and gas resources in Alaska's Arctic. That development and oil transportation in NPR-A is a vital link in bringing Alaska's offshore resources to market," he said.
"But unnecessary barriers remain to making additional acreage available for leasing. I'll keep up the full court press on the administration over the next few weeks to make sure our state's onshore and offshore resources can be deliver to TAPS [Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline] and to market."
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