BLM concludes public meetings on NPR-A proposals

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) The Bureau of Land Management has concluded the last of a series of public meetings on five proposed drilling sites in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The agency's next step is to write a draft environmental impact statement before another round of public meetings.

The BLM will field written comments on the plans until March 31, with the draft EIS expected this fall.

A small group gathered in Fairbanks Thursday night to speak to the BLM and other agencies about general resource development in the area and the proposed satellite sites of ConocoPhillips' Alpine field. The Alpine field now includes two drilling sites just east of the NPR-A.

Buzz Otis, a partner at Great Northwest Inc., spoke in support of the proposed drilling, saying ConocoPhillips' track record on the North Slope is commendable, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

We need to remind ourselves that we've got a pipeline that's running at about one-half capacity,'' Otis said.

ConocoPhillips' proposals call for the creation of gravel pads, several miles of gravel road, a gravel airstrip, pipeline and utilities.

Mara Bacsujlaky, assistant director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, asked the agencies to stand firm on previous regulations concerning road construction and drilling site location. She said the ConocoPhillips proposals were at odds with earlier leasing regulations.

Production on the first two satellite fields, which are located just east of the NPR-A on the Colville River Delta, could begin in 2005, with oil production possible by mid 2006, said Sally Rothwell, EIS coordinator for ConocoPhillips.

Construction of a satellite site within the NPR-A could begin by 2007 and would be the first producing field in the reserve. The tentative ConocoPhillips plans call for construction of the final two sites in 2009 and 2010.

Earlier, the BLM held similar public meetings in Anchorage, Barrow and the village of Nuiqsut, which is within about 35 miles of all the satellite fields.

At the Nuiqsut meeting, residents expressed interest in the job opportunities drill sites could bring, but were concerned about the effect on subsistence lifestyles and area wildlife, said Jim Ducker, bureau environmental program analyst.

While BLM is the lead agency on the project, the bureau is joined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state in the permitting process.

Two of the proposed sites are on Native corporation land, one is on state land and two are on BLM land, Rothwell said.

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