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The Biden administration has blocked the expansion of oil and gas drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, effectively limiting land available for drilling to half of the reserve’s territory.
The decision was made in a final record issued this week, which reinstated a 2013 development plan for the National Petroleum Reserve that envisaged allowing drilling activity on 11.8 million acres instead of the whole 22.8 million acres. The motivation behind the move was to protect sensitive ecosystems in the reserve.
“Today’s decision ensures the NPR-A will be managed consistent with the 2013 IAP, while including certain more protective lease stipulations and operating procedures for threatened and endangered species from the 2020 IAP/EIS, confirmed through consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service,” the Bureau of Land Management said.
The BLM made its plans to reduce the territory available for drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve earlier this year, sparking criticism from Alaskan legislators.
“With zero analysis or consultation with Alaskans, the Biden administration has decided to upend the NPR-A’s current management plan to return to an outdated policy that is worse for our state’s economy, worse for our nation’s energy security, and contrary to federal law,” Senator Lisa Murkowski said in a statement in January, following the release of the plan.
“The current management plan was carefully crafted to protect the reserve’s most sensitive areas and includes numerous safeguards for responsible development. Sweeping restrictions like this – which are being imposed even as the Biden administration implores OPEC+ to produce more oil – demonstrate everything that is wrong with its energy policies.”
Alaska is one of the oldest oil-producing states in the U.S. and relies heavily on oil revenues. However, it has in recent years found itself torn between federal environmental policies and industry ambitions to tap new oil resources.
The biggest new project that got the green light recently was CococoPhillips’ Willow development that should add 160,000 bpd to Alaska’s oil output when it becomes operational.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com