Major step in carrying out mandate from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act supporting energy security, job creation and economic growth for future generations
Date: Monday, August 17, 2020
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt signed a Record of Decision approving the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. The leasing program is required by law in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (Public Law 115-97), which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. The decision determines where and under what terms and conditions leasing will occur in the 1.56 million-acre Coastal Plain within the 19.3 million-acre ANWR.
“Congress directed us to hold lease sales in the ANWR Coastal Plain, and we have taken a significant step in meeting our obligations by determining where and under what conditions the oil and gas development program will occur,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “Our program meets the legal mandate that Coastal Plain leaseholders get the necessary rights-of-way, easements and land areas for production and support facilities they need to find and develop these important Arctic oil and gas resources.”
The energy potential of the ANWR Coastal Plain was finally unlocked after 30 years of gridlock when President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law, finally settling the question of whether the leasing, exploration and development of oil and gas will occur on about 8 percent of the refuge that lies with an oil and gas province of national significance. The legislation was unique because it didn’t just allow for an oil and gas development program, it requires one that delivers energy to the nation and revenue to the treasury.
The Act changes the purposes of ANWR management to include oil and gas development in a small but potentially energy rich area along the Arctic coast, directing the Secretary of the Interior to carry out an aggressive, competitive energy development program that could keep oil flowing in the nation’s energy artery, the 800 mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline, decades from now.
“Today's announcement marks a milestone in Alaska’s forty-year journey to responsibly develop our State and our Nation's new energy frontier - the 1002 Area. The Record of Decision is a definitive step in the right direction to developing this area's energy potential - between 4.3 and 11.8 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil reserves,” said Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy. “In 2017, the U.S. Congress, under the leadership of Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and Congressman Young, authorized the leasing of lands in the 1002 Area, recognizing the critical role that Alaska plays in our Nation's energy independence. I would like to thank Secretary Bernhardt and the U.S. Department of the Interior for their hard work and fulfilling their commitment to work with and consult with Alaskans on this important development. Alaska plays a critical role in our Nation's energy security. The vision of Secretary Bernhardt and President Donald J. Trump will lead to the responsible development of Alaska's abundant resources, create new jobs, support economic growth and prosperity, and most importantly, retain well into the future Alaska’s critical role in our Nation's energy policy.”
“This is a capstone moment in our decades-long push to allow for the responsible development of a small part of Alaska’s 1002 Area. I appreciate the significant work of Secretary Bernhardt and his team to get us to this point. I’m confident the ROD has been developed carefully and comprehensively and look forward to the lease sales mandated by law,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “New opportunity in the 1002 Area is needed both now, as Alaskans navigate incredibly challenging times, and well into the future as we seek a lasting economic foundation for our state. Through this program, we will build on our already-strong record of an increasingly minimal footprint for responsible resource development.”
“We've made historic progress this past month for Alaskan jobs and our economy,” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “First, we had a record of decision for the Ambler Road project, then a final Environmental Impact Statement for the Willow project in the NPR-A, and now the record of decision for the responsible development of ANWR. This is what happens when the executive branch and Congress work together to create opportunities for Alaskans, not shut us down.
I thank all Alaskans who have worked for more than 40 years for responsible resource development in the 1002 area of ANWR. I particularly applaud the tireless advocacy of the many Alaska Natives—who call the area home—and who know firsthand how responsible oil production can provide enormous economic and social benefits while having minimal impact on the environment. Finally, I appreciate all of the hard work and diligence of Secretary Bernhardt and the Department of the Interior to produce this record of decision—bringing us that much closer to unleashing America’s energy potential, filling up the Trans Alaska Pipeline, boosting our economy, and providing good jobs for Alaskans, all while protecting the Coastal Plain’s ecosystem.”
“Today is a great day, not only for the State of Alaska, but also for American energy independence. I have long fought to realize the original promise of ANILCA, which designated the 1002 Area of ANWR's Coastal Plain for responsible oil exploration. In Alaska, we have proven that protecting the environment, honoring our history, and developing our natural resources can go hand-in-hand. The ROD released today is a crucial milestone in our efforts to make the 1002 Area's vast oil reserves available for development. Thousands of Alaskans are employed in our oil industry, and their livelihoods depend on the good-paying jobs created by our state's reserves. Today, we are one step closer to securing a bright future for these Alaskans and their families. I want to thank President Trump, Secretary Bernhardt, and the countless others at the Department of the Interior for the important work they have done. As we approach the day where the first drilling rigs arrive and crude starts flowing, I will continue working with great excitement to ensure that Alaska is front and center as we blaze the trail toward American energy dominance,” said Congressman Don Young.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 directs the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to conduct at least two area-wide leasing sales, not less than 400,000 acres each, within the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Program area of ANWR. The lease sales must be held within seven years with the first lease sale taking place before December 22, 2021 and the second lease sale before December 22, 2024. The Act also requires the Secretary of the Interior to grant rights-of-way and easements necessary for successful development of the oil and gas resources and authorize up to 2,000 surface acres, or .01 percent of ANWR’s 19.3 million acres, to be covered by production and support facilities.
Today’s decision makes the approximately 1,563,500 acres, or the entire Coastal Plain program area, available for oil and gas leasing, and consequently for potential future exploration, development and transportation. While providing these opportunities, the program adopted in the Record of Decision also provides protections for surface resources and other uses, including subsistence use, through a comprehensive package of lease stipulations and required operating procedures that will apply to future oil and gas activities.
Congress opened 8 percent of ANWR for oil and gas development, leaving 92 percent of the 19.3-million-acre refuge off-limits to energy development by law, including 8 million acres in the Mollie Beattie Wilderness included in the National Wilderness Preservation System. Including oil and gas development on the Coastal Plain as a purpose of the refuge, Congress struck a balance between access to national important energy resources and the permanent preservation of vast areas of wilderness.
Under the approved plan, a majority of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program area will be subject to no surface occupancy restrictions (359,400 acres) and operational timing limitations (585,400 acres) to protect habitat and wildlife. All permitted activities will incorporate required operating procedures and stipulated restrictions based on the best science and technology to ensure that energy development does not come at the expense of the environment.
The Bureau of Land Management received almost two million public comments, each of which were considered in developing an environmentally responsible plan for Congress’s oil and gas program. More than 70 specialists contributed their expertise to the analysis, working more than 30,000 hours to ensure the plan was thorough and robust.
The ROD can be found here.