BLM Falls Short of Comprehensive Analysis of Proposed Western Arctic Development
Late last month, the Alaska Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a set of five draft alternatives for the development of the first commercial oil production facility on federal land within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (Reserve).
The proposed Greater Mooses Tooth oil and gas development is located in the wildlife rich northeastern corner of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (Reserve) near the Colville River Delta and both the Teshekpuk Lake and Colville River “Special Areas”, areas largely off limits to oil and gas development due to their exceptional wildlife and subsistence values. The region includes key habitat for migratory birds and waterfowl, a number of fish species and the Teshekpuk Lake Caribou Herd, one of North America’s largest. Additionally, Fish Creek, an important area for native subsistence, is within the project area boundaries.
Though we are pleased that the BLM included a “roadless development” option, the agency failed to consider seasonal drilling within the draft alternatives. Instead, the agency insisted on solely analyzing options that consisted of year round drilling and production.
As a result, we feel that the BLM did not create an alternative that fully considers a comprehensive minimal impact development. Moving forward, we look forward to working with Alaska Office to ensure the final product utilizes best available technology as to facilitate a development that has both a minimal footprint and limited impact on wildlife and native subsistence.
At nearly 23 million acres, the Reserve is our country’s largest unit of public land and harbors a wide array of wildlife including two caribou herds, threatened polar bears, wolves, wolverines and millions of migratory birds and waterfowl, among others. Roughly half the Reserve is awarded “Special Area” status and is largely off limits to oil and gas development. The remaining 11.8 million acres, roughly half of the Reserve, is available for oil and gas leasing.