BLM introduces proposed NPR-A rule, drawing resistance from some in oil and gas industry
Rule draws backlash from some in the oil and gas industry
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A 60-day public comment period is opening for the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed rule for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. It was announced at an informational session for the rule, hosted by the BLM, at the Dena’ina Center on Tuesday.
The rule was first announced last month and BLM says it’s meant to create protections for more than 13 million acres of special areas in the NPR-A. Some existing special areas include Colville River, Kasegaluk Lagoon, Peard Bay, Teshekpuk Lake, and Utukok River Uplands.
“We’re seeking feedback on the whole rule, of course, but in particular on the proposal to codify existing protections and restrictions from the 2022 record of decision that adopted the integrated activity plan,” said Kathryn Kovacs with the BLM.
The BLM wants to balance the oil and gas activities with the protection of the environment, as required by the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act, which protects sensitive landscapes in the reserve. In addition, the rule would protect long-standing subsistence activities and create involvement with Alaska tribal governments.
“There are over 40 communities that rely on the NPR-A and the resources it supports for subsistence purposes. All of these communities rely on subsistence resources and many of these resources, including caribou, fish, and waterfowl, are concentrated in the special areas,” Kovacs said.
BLM’s reasoning behind it stems from a framework managing NPR-A’s values, including subsistence use, fish, wildlife, and more.
“The Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the earth,” according to the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management. They say those conditions are impacting caribou movement, the deterioration of permafrost, along with altering habitats of wildlife and plants throughout the NPR-A.
According to the presentation on Tuesday, the protection of surface resources would require BLM to adopt measures to mitigate “reasonably foreseeable” effects of the oil and gas industry.
Even with the 60-day public comment period, there was backlash from some people in the oil and gas industry about not being able to give public testimony on the proposed changes.
One man was angered by the BLM holding a hearing with them not willing to hear people voice concerns.
“You can’t have hearings and not have Anchorage, Fairbanks and other people not have the opportunity to talk. There’s thousands and thousands of jobs right here in Anchorage, Fairbanks and other communities throughout the state so it’d be nice if people could comment and be heard,” said a man with the oil and gas industry.
Kati Capozzi, the President and CEO of the Alaska Chamber, also attended the meeting and is concerned for the businesses the chamber represents.
“This would have an impact on a lot of my membership and the concern that we have is the language, as we just learned in the briefing, is very confusing. This process has been extremely rushed and I think it leaves a lot more questions than answers,” Capozzi said.
Capozzi wants more analysis to be done and for them to accept more comments, along with extending the public comment period.
“It definitely leaves a lot of questions for what kind of leases would be allowed and what type of development would be allowed moving forward, so any project moving forward were left with a question mark,” Capozzi said.
Capozzi hopes a more meaningful conversation will be allowed on the proposed NPR-A rule in the future.
The public comment period will be open for 60 days, until Nov. 7.
You can go to regulations.gov and search for NPR-A to comment or http://www.regulations.gov/document/BLM-2023-0006-0001. You can also comment by mail and send a hard copy to the following address: 1849 C St. NW, Room 5646, Washington, DC 20240.
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