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Alaska Suing USFWS for Right to Assess ANWR Coastal Plain

The state of Alaska has filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's (USFWS) refusal to consider the state's exploration plan for the coastal plain, or 1002 Area, of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

"It is both disappointing and disturbing that the Obama administration, which claims that it is pursuing an 'all of the above' energy policy, is afraid to let the people of the United States learn more about ANWR's oil and gas resources," said Gov. Sean Parnell. "The modern technology that we are seeking to use is responsibly utilized all across the North Slope with extremely limited environmental impact, and would dramatically improve our understanding of ANWR's resources."

The state in its complaint asserts that exploration of the 1002 area was mandated by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and is still authorized today, despite the USFWS director's assertion in his final administrative decision last September that his agency did not have authority to review the state plan.

The USFWS position was primarily based on a legal opinion, issued by a Department of the Interior solicitor in the final days of the Clinton administration, claiming that the relevant provisions of ANILCA had expired. USFWS in 2013 refused to revisit its interpretation of the federal law.

The state's exploration plan was submitted to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell last July (see Daily GPI, July 10, 2013) and complies with existing USFWS regulations, the state said. The plan, which was rejected by Interior later the same month (see Daily GPI, Aug. 22, 2013; July 30, 2013) calls for using 3-D seismic imaging to better understand the extent and accessibility of the oil and natural gas resources in the 1002 Area.

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