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The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has issued the final environmental impact statement on an oil and gas drilling program for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The plan will open up to drilling an area spanning almost 20 million acres with the first auction scheduled for later this year, Reuters reports, quoting an official from the Ministry of the Interior. However, drilling leases would be limited to 1.56 million acres along the coast.
“Affordable energy and great paying energy jobs help power our nation’s economy, which is clearly thriving under President Trump’s policies,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in the BLM statement. “After rigorous review, robust public comment, and a consideration of a range of alternatives, today’s announcement is a big step to carry out the clear mandate we received from Congress to develop and implement a leasing program for the Coastal Plain, a program the people of Alaska have been seeking for over 40 years.”
Oil production in Alaska has been falling due to natural depletion, but earlier this year, S&P Global Platts reported that new digital technology had helped uncover as much as 1.5 billion barrels of crude in untapped resources in the North Slope, the biggest legacy-producing area in the state. These are deposits that were known to be there, but the resources they held could not be mapped or measured, so the deposits were considered unproductive before digital tech came along.
Data from the Alaska Oil and Gas Association says the waters around the northernmost U.S. state are estimated to contain over 30 percent of the known U.S. recoverable oil and gas resources offshore.
On the same day when the Department of the Interior issued its final statement, the House of Representatives voted for a reversal of a 2017 law that allows oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Reuters notes. However, the bill will likely die in the Republican-dominated Senate.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.