July 17, 2008

Federal Government Plans to Sell Controversial Oil Leases in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska _ The federal government intends to hold a major oil and gas lease sale this fall in portions of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, officials in Washington, D.C., announced Wednesday.

The Bureau of Land Management, which acts as landlord for the Indiana-sized reserve on Alaska's North Slope, today issued a "record of decision" spelling out land to be leased.

Much of the NPR-A has been the subject of environmental challenges in court.

"The rapid increase in energy costs facing our nation is driven by a worldwide imbalance in energy supply and demand," Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said. "Developing the NPR-A in an environmentally sound manner will contribute to our domestic oil and natural gas supplies. Together with new production from other offshore and onshore areas, these increased supplies will help stabilize energy costs."

The lease sale in the reserve's northeast and northwest sections could result in development of 8.4 billion barrels of oil as well as trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, the BLM said.

Under the record of decision, the BLM defers leasing for 10 years on land currently unavailable for leasing north and east of Teshekpuk Lake.

The plan includes protections for the polar bear, including requirements to consider impacts on areas used by polar bears for denning.

"This decision provides for the protection of high-value wildlife, including waterfowl and caribou, and meets the subsistence needs of North Slope residents while making lands with oil and gas potential available for leasing," said Tom Lonnie, the agency's Alaska director.


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