Action Alert: Comment Deadline Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Willow Master Development Plan
                                                                                                                            RDC Testimony

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Willow Master Development Plan (MDP) and is collecting public input through October 29th. The proposal includes the construction, operation, and maintenance of a central processing facility, infrastructure pad, up to five drill sites, access and infield roads, pipelines, and a temporary module transport island on BLM-managed lands within the Bear Tooth Unit of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) and within waters managed by the State of Alaska. 

The Willow MDP would have a peak production of up to 130,000 barrels of oil per day over its 30-year life (producing approximately 590 million barrels of oil) and would help offset declines in production from North Slope oil fields and contribute to the local, state, and national economies. Current North Slope production is approximately 500,000 barrels per day. 

An average of 375 workers would be employed annually for a nine-year construction period beginning in 2020. Oil production would begin in 2024 under the plan. The State would collect an estimated $1.7 billion in tax revenue, and $2.5 billion in royalties. The federal government would collect $4.4 billion in tax revenues and royalties, while the North Slope Borough would receive $1.9 billion in property tax revenue. 

Action Requested:

RDC members are encouraged to participate in the environmental review process by submitting comments in support of the proposed MDP, the Preferred Alternative, Alternative B, and the module transfer Option 1. Submit comments via email to: [email protected].

Points to consider in your comments:

  • The BLM should adopt the proposed Master Development Plan, Alternative B, as its Preferred Alternative and module transfer Option 1 in the Final EIS.
  • Development of the proposed $5 billion project would provide benefits to the local and state economies through local hire for jobs created during construction and operations, tax revenues, federal revenue sharing from royalties and lease rentals/bonuses, and new resources to help meet domestic energy demand. 
  • The proposed MDP conforms to the BLM’s 2013 Integrated Activity Plan (IAP) which provides a framework for minimizing impacts. The project proponent has collected extensive biological and engineering data since 2017 to inform the Willow EIS process.
  • Oil and gas development in NPR-A could ultimately prove indispensable, given forecasts that predict our nation’s energy demands increasing over ten percent in the next 25 years. Even with dramatic increases in alternative energy sources, the majority of these growing energy demands will continue to be satisfied through the use of fossil fuels.
  • Production from Willow would serve to help maintain the integrity of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), a critical link to America’s energy distribution. Given the vast resources believed to be available in NPR-A, future production could reverse the decline in TAPS, allowing it to remain viable for decades.
  • Conversely, prohibiting development and production at Willow would set a dangerous precedent for future development in NPR-A, severely compromising the long-term energy and economic security of Alaska and the nation.
  • Production from Willow would help meet the purpose of NPR-A, which is to develop America’s energy resources. The 23-million acre reserve was set aside nearly a century ago for its petroleum value. In an updated report, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates the reserve could hold nearly 9 billion barrels of oil.
  • The industry has made great strides in responsibly designing projects in the Arctic with minimal impact on the environment, wildlife, and subsistence activities.
  • The Proposed Master Development Plan and Preferred Alternative minimizes impacts and maintains high standards for safety and emergency response and leverages contemporary North Slope best management practices to avoid and minimize impacts.
  • Alternative B would reduce environmental impacts compared to other alternatives by using less gravel fill, fresh water, and aircraft flights, while improving year-round access for local residents.
  • Road connections are required for safe and environmentally sound operations. Alternative B allows for a road connection to the Alpine field infrastructure and road connections to all drill sites.
  • The industry employs rigorous standards to protect the environment and subsistence resources. Industry has an excellent track record and a long history of operating responsibly and working with stakeholders on the North Slope and in the Arctic.
  • The BLM should move forward expeditiously with the proposed Master Development Plan in accordance with the recently issued Executive Orders and Secretarial guidance on streamlining and improving the NEPA and other regulatory processes.

Comment deadline is Tuesday, October 29, 2019