Department Of Interior

National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska
Fact Sheet: Northwest National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska Integrated Activity Plan, Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision

What is the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska?
The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska is a 23-million-acre area (about the size of Indiana) located on the North Slope of Alaska. This area has been managed by the Bureau of Land Management since 1976.

What energy exploration has taken place in the reserve?
Between 1945 and 1952 the U.S. Navy contracted for 45 core tests and 36 test wells and between 1974 and 1977, it contracted six deep well tests.
Between 1977 and 1981, the U.S. Geological Survey contracted for a number of seismic lines and exploration wells. In all, 40 test wells and 15,600 miles of seismic data were obtained.
Since the 1999 lease sale, 14 exploration wells have been drilled and commercial discoveries have been announced. As many as three more wells will be drilled during the winter of 2003-2004.
Seismic lines have been run somewhere in the reserve every year since 1976, except for 2004.

Has Congress given the agency any direction on how the reserve is to be managed?
Yes. The Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act of 1976 and the 1980 Interior Department Appropriations Act gave direction to BLM to carry out "an expeditious program of competitive leasing of oil and gas…"

Why does BLM have so many land use plans underway for this area?
Land use plans require significant time, staff, and money. Since industry was most interested in leasing those areas closest to existing infrastructure, BLM elected to undertake its land use planning by phases so as to analyze the areas most likely to be developed first. That was accomplished in the first Northeast National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska plan completed in 1998.
BLM has now completed a similar plan for the Northwest National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and will begin planning for the Southern National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in about a year.
Meanwhile, commercial oil discoveries, the findings from ongoing research, and the Energy Policy Conservation Act have led to an initiative to amend the 1998 Northeast National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska plan. Commercial discoveries have also prompted the development of detailed plan for the Alpine satellite fields, portions of which overlap the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

How were public comments for the Northwest National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska Integrated Activity Plan/ Environmental Impact Statement addressed?

BLM's core planning team (5) assigned substantive comments to individual subject matter specialists on the larger planning team (20) to prepare responses. The core team and the Solicitor's Office in Anchorage reviewed those responses.
The vast majority of the comments (96,000) were a form-letter style submitted as part of an internet campaign. These, too, were reviewed by members of the comment analysis team. Each and every comment was opened and read to see if there was any additional information provided, then analyzed and categorized.
Substantial comments were received from the State of Alaska, North Slope Borough, Audubon Society and others.

Why didn't the Environmental Impact Statement separately analyze the alternatives received from these three groups?
After completion of the public meetings on the Draft Plan, members of the core planning team, resource staff, and management met specifically to develop the Preferred Alternative. Our starting point was a look at the proposals submitted by Audubon and others related to a "Wildlife Habitat Alternative." Resource information submitted by Audubon was considered consistent with BLM's own information and that submitted by others, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Alaska, and the North Slope Borough. Recommendations by Audubon for new special areas and corresponding restrictions were evaluated in light of our oil and gas resource information. While it was felt some proposals were too restrictive, especially in the high prospective area in northeast portion of the Planning Area, it was also felt that the Preferred Alternative must look carefully at protections for the Pacific black brandt, spectacled and Steller's eiders, yellow-billed loons, peregrine falcons, caribou, and the coastal bays and lagoons. Also protections must in some cases be fairly prescriptive and quantitatively defined (e.g., 1/2-mile setbacks on rivers). As discussions proceeded and additional information and input were received, the Preferred Alternative evolved. BLM believes the end result is a balanced and environmentally responsible alternative.

What protections will be provided by the Record of Decision?

  • Defer leasing on about 1.5 million acres (17 percent of the planning area) near Wainwright for the next 10 years.

  • Designate 102,000 acres as the Kasegaluk Lagoon Special Area

  • Provide no surface occupancy stipulations along coastal areas, in deep-water lakes, along key rivers (16 percent of the planning area), and in the Kasegaluk Lagoon Special Area

  • Designate special study areas for Pacific black brandt and caribou

  • Conduct area wide studies on habitat for Spectacled and Steller's eiders (both listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act) and yellow-billed loons

  • Implement stipulations to minimize loss of raptor foraging habitat within the existing Colville River Special Area

What is different between the Record of Decision and the Final Environmental Impact Statement?

  • In response to a resolution passed by BLM's Resource Advisory Council, leasing will be deferred in the Colville River Special Area until the combined Southern National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska Integrated Activity Plan/ Environmental Impact Statement and Colville River Management plans are complete.

  • Minor changes to some of the stipulations were made to help clarify the intent more clearly or to add phrases that were accidentally deleted during the planning process.

  • A required operating procedure to address cultural/paleontological resources was added.

  • At the request of the North Slope Borough, a set-back stipulation of ½ mile was added for Naklavik Creek.

How does leasing in the petroleum reserve tie in with the President's National Energy Plan?
The production of oil and gas resources within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska could make a valuable contribution to the domestic production portion of the stream by offsetting declines in production from Prudhoe Bay, using the existing TAPS pipeline and tanker transportation and distribution system. The National Energy Plan specifically recommends that "the Secretary of the Interior consider additional environmentally responsible oil and gas development, based on sound science and the best available technology, through further lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska."

What happens next?
BLM will develop a Record of Decision documenting any changes in the preferred alternative. Current plans call for it to be signed by the Secretary on January 21 so that BLM can hold a lease sale in early June.

Can people protest the Record of Decision?
No. Since the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska is a designated petroleum reserve, it is exempt from the BLM's regulations covering resource management plans. There is no protest period and since the Record of Decision is being signed by the Secretary, it is final until such time as the plan is amended.

What about another lease sale?
BLM asked industry for expressions of interest at the start of the planning effort and will give industry a second opportunity to add or amend any previous information submitted to the agency following the signing of the Record of Decision. BLM will evaluate responses and develop bid packets in time to hold a lease sale June 2, 2004.

How much oil is there?
The US Geological Survey issued a new report in 2002 that significantly revised hydrocarbon estimates upwards. The agency now estimates that the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska has between 5.9 to 13.2 billion barrels of technically-recoverable oil on the federal lands in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska with a mean estimate of 9.3 billion barrels. Assuming price levels of $22 to $30 per barrel, there are an estimated 1.3 to 5.6 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil, an amount equal to what we import from Saudi Arabia in 3 to 6 years.

What about natural gas?
Although there are significant reserves of natural gas in the petroleum reserve, currently there is no way to get this gas to market. However, there is potential to make this resource available to local communities as a lower cost energy alternative. For example, the village of Nuiqsut worked out an agreement with ConocoPhillips to obtain natural gas from the nearby Alpine production facility. Depending on the location of future development, villages such as Barrow, Atqasuk and Wainwright may also benefit from small-scale developments.


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