Secretary of the Interior Signs Order to Aid Alaska Oil and Gas Exploration

Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior, signs secretarial order to jump-start Alaskan energy production. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has signed a secretarial order to jump-start Alaskan energy production in the National Petroleum Reserve (NPR-A) and update resource assessments for areas of the North Slope, including the “1002 area” of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The order calls for the lawful review and development of a revised Integrated Activity Plan for the NPR-A that strikes an appropriate statutory balance of promoting development while protecting surface resources; and, an evaluation, under the existing Integrated Activity Plan, on efficiently and effectively maximizing the tracts offered for sale during the next NPR-A lease sale. The order also directs the Assistant Secretaries of Land and Minerals Management and Water and Science to submit a joint plan to the Counselor to the Secretary for Energy Policy for updating assessments of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and natural gas resources of Alaska’s North Slope, focusing on Federal lands including the NPR-A and the Section 1002 Area of the ANWR. The joint plan shall include consideration of new geological and geophysical data, as well as potential for reprocessing existing geological and geophysical data. The Secretarial Order does not reduce, eliminate, or modify any environmental or regulatory requirements for energy development.

“The National Petroleum Reserve serves a critical role in both our energy and national security,” said Secretary Zinke. “This is land that was set up with the sole intention of oil and gas production, however years of politics over policy put roughly half of the NPR-A off-limits. Using this land for its original intent will create good paying jobs and revenue for our Northern-most city and strengthen our energy and national security. Working with the Alaska Native community, Interior will identify areas in the NPR-A where responsible energy development makes the most sense and devise a plan to extract resources. We will do it in a way that both respects the environment and traditional uses of the land as well as maintains subsistence hunting and fishing access.”

Prior to making the announcement, Secretary Zinke met with North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower Jr., an Inupiat whaling captain, whose borough encompasses the NPR-A and ANWR.

“I welcome Secretary Zinke’s new Secretarial Order,” said Mayor Brower. “In my meeting with Secretary Zinke earlier today, the Secretary committed that the Interior Department will engage in meaningful consultation with our communities, tribes, AEWC, and Native corporations during the Department’s review of the NPR-A IAP. North Slope Borough residents recognize the importance of oil and gas to our local economy and the ability of our Borough and city governments to provide public services. We look forward to working with the Secretary to continue to permit responsible development on the North Slope while, at the same time, protecting our wildlife and our subsistence way of life.”

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski says this secretarial order will help Alaska strike a balance between oil and gas exploration and protecting the environment.

“This Secretarial Order is exactly the type of announcement that so many Alaskans have been asking for: a smart, timely step to restore access to our lands, throughput to our Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and growth to our economy under reasonable regulations that do not sacrifice environmental protections,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Murkowski said. “I thank Secretary Zinke for traveling to Alaska this week, for meeting with stakeholders to understand the unique needs and opportunities of our state, and for moving quickly to ensure we are finally allowed to realize more of our tremendous resource potential.”

According to Alaska Governor Bill Walker, this secretarial order will help usher in an unprecedented era of federal-state cooperation to develop Alaska’s oil and gas resources.

“Today’s announcement marks a bright, new chapter in Alaska’s history,” Governor Walker said. “Thanks to Secretary Zinke’s leadership, we are ushering in an era of unprecedented federal-state partnership to develop Alaska’s resources. This order allows for greater state input as Alaskans continue our strong record of safe and responsible oil and gas development. I applaud Secretary Zinke for removing the obstacles so that Alaska can play a greater role in securing the nation’s energy dominance.”

Secretary Zinke added that science will play an important role as Congress considers legislation concerning oil and gas exploration in Alaska.

 “I’m a geologist,” Secretary Zinke said. “Science is a wonderful thing: it helps us understand what is going on deep below the surface of the earth. We need to use science to update our understanding of the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Congress considers important legislation to responsibly develop there one day. This order takes the important first step in a smart and measured approach to energy development in ANWR.”

According to the order, within 31 days, the Counselor to the Secretary for Energy Policy is to deliver a plan to Secretary Zinke for reviewing and effectuating the Department’s actions.



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