Trump Administration Releases Final Environmental Review to Expand Oil, Gas Development in Arctic Reserve

The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management on June 26 released the final environmental review for a new integrated activity plan for the 23-million acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The preferred  alternative would open as much as 18.7 million acres, or about 82 percent of the reserve, to oil and gas development, undoing Obama-era protections on drilling in the region. The agency is updating a 2013 plan that had put half of the acreage off limits to development to preserve habitat and conserve subsistence resources.

The environmental impact statement considers a no-action alternative and four action alternatives, including maintaining the current level of 11.8 million acres. The second option would cut the acreage eligible for drilling to 10.9 million. The third and fourth alternatives would expand energy development significantly to 17.3 million acres and 18.6 million acres, respectively.

The above statements are the culmination of an environmental review initiated in November 2018 to develop a new management plan for the region, following a June 2017 secretarial order that calls for safe development while avoiding regulatory burdens that impede energy production and constrain economic growth.