July 20, 2017

The Honorable Ryan Zinke
Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240

Re: Proposed road from Nuiqsut to Utqiaġvik, National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska

Dear Secretary Zinke: 

The Resource Development Council for Alaska for Alaska, Inc. (RDC) is writing to support year-round surface access from existing North Slope oil and gas infrastructure near Nuiqsut, through the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) to Utqiaġvik, formerly known as Barrow.

RDC is an Alaskan business association comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, forest products, tourism and fisheries industries. RDC’s membership includes Alaska Native Corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC’s purpose is to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

RDC applauds your recent Secretarial Order to update assessments of North Slope oil and gas resource basins and calling for the development of a revised plan for NPR-A and the Section 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). We look forward to the State of Alaska, North Slope leaders, and the Department of the Interior (DOI) working together to achieve a better understanding of the tremendous potential that lies beneath NPR-A and the 1002 Area of ANWR. These promising oil and gas basins have the potential to refill the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), Alaska’s economic lifeline and a strategic and critical energy asset for America.

As you know, in 2013 DOI approved regulations that placed 11 million acres of the 23 million-acre NPR-A into special conservation areas, essentially blocking exploration of highly-prospective lands and impeding the development of a road system in the energy reserve. The construction of a road from Nuiqsut to Utqiaġvik would be a game-changer in facilitating oil and gas exploration and development in this resource rich area.

Currently, surface access inside NPR-A is limited to expensive ice roads, which melt away each spring and must be rebuilt at great cost each winter. A year-round gravel road would provide all-season access and significantly reduce the high cost of exploration and development activities in this remote and harsh Arctic climate. Therefore, surface infrastructure could significantly improve the economics of developing promising energy prospects in the region. Conversely, the lack of infrastructure is a major impediment to future exploration and development.

An all-season road would provide a safe and environmentally-sound approach to developing NPR-A’s energy resources in a timely and economic manner. The proposed design and citing of the road can be built with mitigation measures to minimize impacts to high-value wetlands, habitat, and hydrology, as well as tundra, wildlife, aquatic resources, and subsistence activities.

A road link between Nuiqsut and Utqiaġvik is essential to safe and efficient operations as petroleum development expands in NPR-A. The energy reserve is very large and remote, and recent new discoveries at Smith Bay and near Nuiqsut hint at large reserves inside NPR-A. However, new fields would require new airstrips to move supplies and personnel if no surface access is permitted. In contrast, surface infrastructure would link local communities, as well as responsible resource development operations. Moreover, road access would mitigate the inability to fly in poor weather. Relying only on air access to reach remote fields introduces unnecessary safety risks for personnel and would potentially hinder response to industrial and medical emergencies.

In recent correspondence to your office, Governor Bill Walker noted there is an increasing need for community access and connection in the western North Slope region. We couldn’t agree more. Communities across the western North Slope could benefit greatly from surface transportation infrastructure through NPR-A.

RDC appreciates you making access to Alaska’s vast energy resources a priority. We respectfully request that you make an all-season road inside NPR-A a transportation infrastructure priority to facilitate future energy production and provide connectivity between local communities. NPR-A could very well contain billions of barrels of conventional oil reserves. All-season road access to these resources would lead to responsible development that has the potential to create thousands of jobs, generate billions of dollars in new government revenues, help refill TAPS, and provide a reliable, long-term energy supply to strengthen national security.

Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.