Energy 20/20 Proposal Undermines Balanced Approach in Western Arctic

Press Release: Energy 20/20 Undermines Balanced Approach in Western Arctic

Conservation Lands Foundation Questions Energy Proposal

February 4, 2013 – Today, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) released a proposal intended to guide U.S. Energy Policy. “Energy 20/20: A Vision for America’s Energy Future” urges Congress to immediately subject a large majority of the 23 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-­Alaska (Reserve) to oil and gas drilling.

The proposal also recommends the un­checked development of the Reserve including roads, bridges and pipelines. This recommendation sharply contrasts the recent decision by the Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, which balanced oil and gas leasing with the protection of key wildlife and native subsistence needs within the Reserve.

Located in Alaska’s western Arctic, the Reserve is our country’s largest single unit of public land. This unparalleled landscape harbors vital wild lands and wildlife including two caribou herds, millions of migratory birds and waterfowl, threatened polar bears, walrus, wolves, seals, beluga whales and one the largest densities of grizzly bears in North America. It is an internationally significant wildlife habitat and an important subsistence resource for the local native communities.

Statement of Brian O’Donnell, Executive Director, Conservation Lands Foundation

“Unfortunately, the Energy 20/20 proposal was shortsighted in its recommendations and represents a step backwards in the effort to achieve balance in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (Reserve).

When Congress created the Reserve, it explicitly urged the Secretary of Interior to balance the protection of the Reserve’s scenic, wildlife, fish, historic and subsistence values with oil and gas leasing. The plan announced by Secretary Salazar on December 19th of this past year accomplishes this mandate by allowing half the Reserve and 72 percent of the available oil reserves to be leased while protecting the other half as five Special Areas generally off limits to oil and gas drilling.

Further, by urging the un-­checked development of roads, bridges and pipelines within the Reserve, the Energy 20/20 proposal abandons the opportunity to utilize cutting edge technologies and Best Management Practices in favor of drilling and construction methods that are most damaging to the land, waters and wildlife of the Reserve.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has found a reasonable balance between the interests and needs of industry, conservation groups, Alaskan Natives and sportsmen. His approach put conservation on equal ground with oil and gas drilling. The recommendations in this proposal represent a one-sided approach that does not honor the process or the balance achieved in the current management plan for the Reserve.”

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