Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Alaska Submits Plan For 3-D Seismic Exploration In ANWR

Jul 9: Alaska Governor Sean Parnell announced that the State of Alaska is officially submitting a plan for seismic exploration activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) 1002 Area, pursuant to Section 1002(e) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Governor Parnell said, "The 1002 Area of ANWR holds enormous promise for Alaska and for our nation. Federal law provides clear direction and mandates a number of actions that the Interior Secretary must take upon the submission of a 1002 Area exploration plan. We look forward to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell's prompt review and approval of this exploration plan."

    On May 18, with support from North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower and Arctic Slope Regional Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Rex Rock, the State of Alaska submitted a detailed 1002 Area exploration proposal and offered to help finance seismic studies in the 1002 Area. In late June, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell completely rejected the State's proposal and offer of funding support. Therefore, the State is submitting a formal exploration plan and special use permit application for the 1002 Area.

    Natural Resource Commissioner Dan Sullivan, noting that the U.S. Department of Interior approved 1002 Area exploration plans in the 1980s and that the law does not contain a sunset provision and therefore is still on the books, said, "ANILCA requires the Secretary to take formal action on this exploration plan. This 240-page, world-class document meets all the statutory and regulatory requirements for a 1002 Area exploration plan contained within the Code of Federal Regulations and in ANILCA. If an exploration plan meets all of these requirements, the Secretary is required by law to approve it."

    The exploration plan and accompanying special permit application builds upon the detailed proposal the State submitted in May. The plan will take advantage of current technology, which will have significantly less environmental impacts than the exploration activities approved and conducted in the 1002 Area during the 1980s. The 1002 Area is thought to be one of the most prolific regions for undiscovered oil in America. The State seeks to conduct low-impact, three-dimensional surveys across the 1002 Area from 2014 to 2017. This work will only be done during the winter, with very limited impact to tundra, fish and wildlife. The Governor said, "I am renewing my pledge to seek support from the Alaska Legislature during its 2014 session to fund a 3-D seismic program for the 1002 Area. If this plan and permit application is promptly reviewed and approved as required by ANILCA, I will request a minimum of $50 million to execute this plan."

    U..S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ranking Member of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, voiced her continued support for the state of Alaska's plan to fully assess the potential oil and natural gas resources in ANWR coastal plain. She said, "The coastal plain holds valuable oil and natural gas resources, which is why Congress reserved it for oil production more than 30 years ago. Any effort to change the way the area is managed must only be considered with the best available information. Gov. Parnell's offer to help pay for a full resource assessment of the coastal plain using 3-D seismic is generous, sensible and legally allowed under the 1980 lands act."

    She indicated in a release that the ANWR coastal plain offers the United States' best chance of a major onshore, domestic oil and natural gas discovery. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates the coastal plain has a 50 percent chance of containing 10.4 billion barrels of oil and 8.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, resources worth more than $1 trillion at current market prices. Those estimates are based on old two-dimensional seismic studies done in 1982-1983. Sen. Murkowski said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is drafting a new management plan for the refuge, which is expected to include new wilderness designation recommendations for the coastal plain. Such a recommendation without knowing the full potential of the coastal plain is "irresponsible." She said, "The problem with Fish and Wildlife Service's work on a new management plan is that it fails to consider the potential economic benefits of oil and gas production. They claim that's because development would require an act of Congress, but, of course, so would a wilderness designation -- their argument doesn't hold up. Instead of trying to lock up our resources, we should develop them as part of a balanced energy plan that creates jobs, invests in research and technology, and bolsters our economy."

    Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska regional director for The Wilderness Society said, "The Arctic Refuge was established for the conservation of the landscape's extraordinary values, including fish and wildlife populations, and habitat for the Porcupine caribou herd, polar bears, grizzly bears, other predators, musk oxen, Dall sheep, and migratory birds and fish, among others. Drilling on the coastal plain of the refuge would not lower gasoline prices, but it would permanently diminish one of the last great wilderness landscapes in the world. Instead, this portion of our nation's heritage should be protected for future generations."

    The Wilderness Society indicated in a release, "Like other supporters of the oil industry, Alaska's governor looks at the wilderness landscape of the Arctic Refuge and sees only dollar signs. But the refuge is worth far more than the value of the oil that may lie beneath it. Parnell's assault on the refuge – like all the attacks that came before it – must be stopped. The refuge must be protected for the creatures that call it home, for the Alaska Native communities that depend on its wildlife for cultural traditions and as a source of food, and for future generations of Americans who deserve to inherit an intact, spectacular, wilderness."

    Access a release from the Governor and link to the letter to Secretary Jewell (click here). Access the 240-page ANILCA Section 1002(e) Exploration Plan and Special Use Permit Application and Supporting Materials (click here). Access a release from Sen. Murkowski (click here). Access a release from The Wilderness Society (click here). [#Energy/ANWR]
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