As the Obama administration heads into its final days, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is urging the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to rescind proposed mitigation requirements covering the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A).
In a letter last Thursday, Murkowski called mitigation requirements under consideration by the agency "burdensome." She called BLM's Draft Regional Mitigation Strategy (DRMS) for the reserve "deeply flawed" and said it should be withdrawn, in part because it runs afoul of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).
The DRMS "seeks to address conditional impacts resulting from hypothetical development and requires advanced compensation for the sustainability and enhancement of environmental conditions," Murkowski told Bud Cribley, state director for BLM's Alaska Region. "It is clear that the FLPMA does not require this approach. In fact, I am sympathetic to arguments that imposing requirements such as those contemplated by the DRMS would violate the spirit, if not the letter, of FLPMA."
Murkowski, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said the DRMS "fails to establish predictability and transparency," despite a promise from the Obama administration, through a presidential memorandum in November 2015, that the document would do both. She added that the DRMS is unfair to developers because it compels them to adopt compensatory mitigation measures that "must be adaptable" until proven successful, even if external influences beyond the developer's control work against such mitigation efforts.
"The DRMS does not establish accommodations for those external negative factors or limit the extent to which mitigation measures may need to be redesigned," Murkowski said. "[It] fails to account for existing, ongoing mitigation measures, and lacks any direction on how to navigate the multitude of plans, processes, and overlapping federal requirements relating to mitigation."
Although conceding that "mitigation can be a useful measure for resource development in Alaska," Murkowski said the current effort to modify mitigation policies in the state is "on the wrong track, will do more harm than good, and should be rescinded."
Last month, Murkowski railed against her Republican counterparts in the House of Representatives for killing an omnibus energy bill that enjoyed bipartisan support. But the political calculus behind delaying passage of an energy bill makes sense for the GOP, with a new Congress taking office this week and President-elect Trump moving into the White House on Jan. 20.
Republicans believe many of the energy policies enacted during the Obama administration -- including a decision last month to place the entire Chukchi Sea and most of the Beaufort Sea off-limits to energy development -- will be reversed once Trump takes office because the president-elect is perceived as being friendly to the oil and gas industry.