Hawaii & Alaska

Arctic Oil & Gas Development: BLM Offers Alternatives

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for development of oil and gas (O&G) resources on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) Coastal Plain. The DEIS is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and would cover leasing only; actual development would be subject to additional NEPA review and is not likely to begin for many years.

Authorizing Legislation

In December 2017, President Donald Trump acceded to years of lobbying by the O&G industry and Alaska’s congressional delegation by signing a bill that requires the secretary of the Interior, acting through the BLM, to establish and administer a competitive O&G program for the leasing, development, production, and transportation of O&G in and from the ANWR.

The DEIS covers Section 1002, which comprises 1,563,500 acres of the ANWR, which itself occupies 19.3 million acres. Four leasing alternatives are offered, including a No Action Alternative (Alternative A), which would open no portion of Section 1002 to O&G leasing. But, given the requirements of the 2017 law, the BLM includes this alternative only as a baseline to compare the impacts of the other alternatives.

No preferred alternative is named in the DEIS; the BLM states that it will identify its preferred alternative in the Final EIS (FEIS).

Rich in Resources

Citing data published in 2005, the BLM notes that Section 1002 contains an estimated 7.687 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 7.04 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of technically recoverable natural gas. Due to high costs associated with operating in the Arctic, it is extremely unlikely that all technically recoverable resources would be produced, says the BLM.

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