Industry work on refuge can and should be done responsibly

What has been dubbed a renaissance in the Cook Inlet oil and gas industry continued recently as two companies received federal approvals for exploration and development work on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Cook Inlet Region Inc., an Alaska Native corporation which owns mineral leases on the refuge, announced the details in a recent corporate newsletter, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported. The work given the OK by federal regulators includes seismic exploration by Apache Corp., and an environmental impact statement for a road onto the refuge by NordAq.

NordAq is interested in developing a natural gas discovery on the refuge and still needs a right of way to build an access road and pipeline as well as a wetlands permit, but regulators say the environmental impact statement approval is the most important step.

Meanwhile, Apache says it is looking at areas to target for seismic work, which will be conducted during the winter and may take several years to complete.

Certainly, oil and gas exploration and development is not usually the first thing people think of when they consider uses of a national wildlife refuge. There are concerns regarding the compatibility of industry and wildlife. We expect companies to adhere to regulations and policies intended to minimize their environmental impact, and regulators to do their due diligence in monitoring activities. Development is crucial to our region, but it must be done responsibly and not at the expense of other natural resources.

We’re encouraged by the commitment to exploration, development and production in the Cook Inlet basin. Continued investment will have benefits for all Kenai Peninsula residents, from the natural gas we need to heat our homes and power our businesses, to greater economic opportunities for individuals, businesses and communities.

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