ACTION ALERT: Call for comments on Draft EIS for ANWR Leasing Program
 Comment Deadline was March 13, 2019

RDC Comment Letter
RDC Anchorage Testimony

RDC Washington DC Testimony
2019 Comments and Letters of Support by members 

In preparation for proposed oil and gas lease sales in the 1002 Area of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the Bureau of Land Management has published a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). Public comments on the DEIS are due March 13 after which BLM will prepare a final EIS and issue a record of decision on how to conduct the leasing program.

In addition to the customary "no action" alternative, the DEIS proposes three alternatives for leasing in the 1002 Area. The alternatives include measures designed to avoid or mitigate surface impacts and minimize ecological disturbance. At this stage BLM has not designated a preferred alternative.

The EIS will serve to fulfill requirements of the 2017 Tax Act to hold not fewer than two areawide lease sales on the coastal plain by December 2024. The first lease sale would be held after the Final EIS and Record of Decision is issued and will offer no fewer than 400,000 acres areawide of high-potential lands for bid.  

The footprint of production and support facilities will be limited to no more than 2,000 surface acres at any given time, including private land holdings inside the coastal plain. Future on-the-ground actions, including potential exploration and development proposals, will require further National Environmental Policy Act analysis based on the site-specific proposal. As a result, decisions evaluated in this leasing EIS and its record of decision would not authorize any on-the-ground activity associated with the exploration or development of oil and gas resources on the coastal plain. 

In 1980, Congress identified the 1002 Area for its potential oil and gas resources. A 1987 Department of the Interior report fulfilling requirements under Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) recommended the 1002 Area for oil and gas development. Since completion of that report, numerous oil fields have been discovered near the coastal plain and oil field technologies have significantly evolved.

Documents relating to the environmental impact statement can be found here.

Action Requested:

RDC members are encouraged to write comments and attend a public meeting to express strong support for the proposed oil and gas lease program that would allow limited activity within the non-Wilderness portion of the coastal plain of ANWR. Encourage BLM to promptly proceed with the preparation of the final EIS.

Fairbanks: Monday, February 4, Carlson Center, 1:00-7:00 p.m. open house, presentations 2:00 and 5:00 p.m.

Kaktovik: Tuesday, February 5, Harold Kaveolook School, 6:00-10:00 p.m.

Utqiagvik: Wednesday, February 6, Inupiat Heritage Center, 5:00-9:00 p.m.

Anchorage: Monday, February 11, Dena’ina Center, 1:00-7:00 p.m. open house, presentations 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. Oral testimony will be taken beginning at 1:00 p.m. on a first-come-first-serve basis with breaks at 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. for the presentations.

Washington, D.C.: Wednesday, February 13, National Housing Center, 2:00-8:00 p.m. open house, presentations 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. Oral testimony will also be taken beginning at 2:00 p.m. 

All public meetings will be open house style with a presentation and subject matter experts on hand to answer questions.

Ms. Nichole Hayes, Project Manager
Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program EIS
BLM Alaska State Office
222 West 7th Avenue, Stop #13
Anchorage, Alaska 99513

Points to consider in your comments:

  • Responsible oil and gas development in the small fraction of ANWR proposed for leasing will help ensure America’s energy security for decades and allow Alaska – and our nation as a whole – to realize the benefits that come from expanding energy production in Alaska.
  • The DEIS includes a wide range of alternatives which contain measures to avoid or mitigate surface impacts and minimize ecological disturbance throughout the program area.

  • Under the three development alternatives, the footprint of production and support facilities will be limited to no more than 2,000 surface acres of the 1.6 million-acre 1002 Area, which is the non-Wilderness portion of the refuge’s coastal plain. That is equivalent to just 0.01 percent of ANWR’s 19.3 million-acres. 

  • Without limited oil development on the coastal plain, America will be forced to once again increase its reliance on foreign imports. With limited development in ANWR, America and Alaska can continue to grow the economy and reduce dependence on foreign oil. 
  • The program area covered by the DEIS contains an estimated 7.68 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

  • Alaska’s economic lifeline, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), is now running at one quarter capacity. New oil production from the coastal plain has the potential to sharply increase throughput in TAPS, a vital component of American energy infrastructure. 

  • Were oil production occurring today on the coastal plain, TAPS potentially would be operating at two-thirds capacity, reducing Alaska's budget deficit.
  • Oil development on a fraction of the coastal plain would create thousands of jobs nationwide, generate billions of dollars in government revenue for public services, keep energy prices for American consumers affordable, and further improve energy security for decades into the future.
  • Since the non-Wilderness coastal plain is less than 60 miles from TAPS, development of energy resources there is one of the most environmentally-sound ways to increase oil production in Alaska.

  • Thanks to continuing improvements in technology, practices, and oversight, the oil industry has demonstrated over the past 40 years that North Slope energy development and environmental stewardship can and do coexist. The industry has a proven track record of responsible development in sensitive areas, protecting the environment, wildlife and subsistence needs of local residents.

  • Over the past 40-plus years of North Slope oil production, many wildlife populations have grown or remained stable. One example at Prudhoe Bay shows the Central Arctic caribou population has grown from 5,000 animals in 1970 to more than 66,000 animals today.

  • Oil and gas operators and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have jointly developed procedures, training, and best practices that set a gold standard world wide for managing human-polar bear interactions. 
  • Advances in technology have greatly reduced the footprint of development in the Arctic. As much as 60-plus square miles can now be developed from a single 12 to 14 acre gravel drill site. New drilling capabilities are being developed that may increase the subsurface development possible from the same size drill site to as much as 150-plus square miles. The net effect is an ever-decreasing impact on surface resources.

  • Development of Native-owned lands on the non-Wilderness coastal plain would provide significant economic benefits to Alaska Natives on the North Slope as well as throughout the state through direct payment of royalties and revenue sharing among the Alaska Native corporations and their shareholders.

  • Polls have consistently shown Alaskans overwhelmingly support responsible oil and gas development in the non-Wilderness portion of ANWR.  There is no valid reason why we should not be allowed to access the world-class resources within just a miniscule fraction of the coastal plain.

  • While renewable energy is a growing part of America’s energy portfolio, it is still projected to account for a minority of American energy production in 2040. New oil and gas production will be required to power America’s economy and can serve as a bridge until renewable energy becomes a dominant energy source decades into the future.

  • The coastal plain was specifically identified by Congress, pursuant to Section 1002 of ANILCA, for its potential for oil and natural gas resources. Oil and gas from the Non-Wilderness portion of the coastal plain is an important resource for meeting our nation’s energy demands and achieving energy dominance.

 Comment Deadline March 13, 2019