The Obama administration on Wednesday announced its plan to allow oil and gas drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, the first time a blueprint has been drawn up for the entire 23-million acre block on Alaska’s North Slope.
The plan, announced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, opens 11.8 million acres for development in an area believed to hold 549 million barrels of economically recoverable oil and 8.7 trillion cubic feet of economically recoverable natural gas.
Conservation groups applauded the approach as a reasonable compromise that sets aside five areas that are largely off limits to drilling, including Teshekpuk Lake, the Colville River, Utukok Uplands, Kasegaluk Lagoon and Peard Bay.
The NPR-A is the largest contiguous piece of public land in the United States and is rich with wildlife, including two caribou herds, polar bears, Grizzly Bears and millions of migratory birds.
The plan allows for construction of pipelines carrying oil or gas from operations in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas through the NPR-A. The policy will become final early next year.