Interior Department Unveils Drilling Plan for Alaska Petroleum Reserve

A proposed management plan for the U.S.’s National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A) would allow new drilling on half of the 23 million-acre reserve while placing the rest of it off-limits to oil and gas exploration. The plan, unveiled by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, also would not preclude construction of a pipeline on the reserve. Salazar said the plan, which was praised by environmental groups but criticized by oil industry officials, would strike a balance between the nation’s energy needs and the protection of wildlife and native Alaskan subsistence culture. “This will provide a road map to help facilitate the transition from leasing and cautious exploration to production and smart development,” he told reporters in Anchorage, Alaska. The reserve, located west of oil fields on Alaska’s North Slope, is the home to a some of the largest caribou populations on the planet and millions of migratory birds from around the world. The region is also estimated to contain 549 million barrels of recoverable oil and 8.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Oil companies have been exploring the the reserve in recent years, but full production was suspended pending the Interior Department’s plan.