Ninth Circuit Upholds BLM Oil and Gas Development Plan for the Northwest Section of the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska
July 27, 2006
(Juneau) - Attorney General David Márquez applauded a decision released this week by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James K. Singleton, which rejected challenges by a number of environmental groups involving a plan of development to issue oil and gas leases in the Northwest section of the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska (NPR-A).
Judge Singleton had previously rejected the arguments advanced by the environmental groups and found the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had properly balanced the competing interests of oil and gas development with environmental conservation, and had even adopted some protective measures similar to those suggested by the environmental groups.
Out of concern for the vital interests of the State of Alaska, including environmental concerns, royalty revenue, jobs and the economic activity associated with development, Governor Frank H. Murkowski asked the Department of Law to review the litigation two years ago.
"The Governor expressed confidence in BLM's public process and environmental impact analysis over two years ago and the federal court decisions show his confidence was well placed," Márquez said.
The BLM leasing plan opens 7.23 of the 8.8 million acres in the Northwest part of the NPR-A to oil and gas development and could be one of the largest onshore lease offerings ever held.
A May 2002 U.S. Geological Survey assessment estimated that NPR-A holds between 5.9 and 13.2-billion barrels of technically recoverable undiscovered oil and between 39.1 and 83.2-trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
In April 2006 the state intervened in a similar lawsuit brought by environmental groups challenging the BLM's plan of development in the Northeast planning area of the reserve. This matter, National Audubon Society, et. al. v. Kempthorne, is still pending before Judge Singleton.
The NPR-A was originally known as the "Naval Petroleum Reserve Number 4 and was created in 1923 by President Warren G. Harding to secure a source of oil for the nation. The State of Alaska is entitled to 50-percent of the oil and gas royalties within the reserve.
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