Colleen McCarthy, deputy state director for energy and solid minerals for the Alaska Bureau of Land Management, said Tuesday at the Alliance luncheon in Kenai that the BLM has proposed dividing the northeast region of the National Petroleum Reserve into seven lease tracts for oil and gas exploration.
The area has been closed for leasing. If passed, 300 acres of each lease tract would allow permanent facilities to be built, she said. The size of the tracts range from 45,000 to 59,000 acres.
McCarthy said this proposal is an amendment to the 1998 environmental impact statement prohibiting exploration in that region. It proposes opening all of that area to exploration because there are believed to be significant oil reserves as much as 2 billion barrels. Exploration can be done in winter, which will minimize impacts to vegetation and wildlife, she said. During the winter, many of the animal species are not on the North Slope which will minimize exploration impacts, she said.
The BLM administers the National Petroleum Reserve.
The amendment is under a public review period, McCarthy said. About 220,000 comments were received during the first public review period, she said.
The area was divided into large lease tracts to limit the amount of surface disturbance, which will allow for development without unduly harming the various species of birds in the area, she said.
McCarthy said BLM has made a concerted effort to strike a balance between conservation and development. "It is not a free-for-all," she said.
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