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WASHINGTON, DC â€“ Two federal resource agencies have reached an agreement in principle with ConocoPhillips regarding the companyâ€™s proposed Alpine Satellite Development Plan (CD-5) in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA).
The agreement fulfills a request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – the federal agency charged with permitting the project – that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) evaluate the environmental impacts associated with ConocoPhillips’ revised project.
The agreement in principle between Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will allow construction of a road across the Colville River, clearing the way for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve the first oil and natural gas production from the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
In the agreement as well,ConocoPhillips has agreed to allow other companies that develop leases in the NPRA to use the same crossing, rather than seek approval for additional channel crossings in the area. This approach will reduce the environmental impacts associated with development of existing and future leases in the NPRA west of the Colville River.
“To harness Alaska’s tremendous energy potential for our nation, we must continue to find ways to responsibly expand opportunities for exploration, development, and delivery of resources from the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska” said Interior Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, who helped with the progress of the discussions among the resource agencies and ConocoPhillips. Speaking to all involved, he said, “I applaud the hard work and collaboration by all parties.
The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska is a 22.6 million acre area managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management. The NPRA is an important resource for domestic oil development. Estimates indicate that the NPRA contains more than one billion barrels of technically recoverable oil.
Earlier this year, the President announced that the Department of the Interior will hold annual lease sales in the NPR-A. The next lease sale will take place on Wednesday, December 7.
President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing the President’s Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska on July 12, 2011.
Mark Begich, who has had several meetings with Ken Salazar and Lisa Jackson since early 2009 on the Alpine Satellite Development Plan, had this to say of the agreement, “This is a great way to ring in the holiday season at a time when Alaska’s oil and gas industry needs to hear some good news on the development front. He went on, “It’s been a long and sometimes frustrating process to get to this decision. I commend ConocoPhillips and the Interior Department for sticking with it. This foothold into the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska will bring new jobs and millions of barrels of oil to help fill the pipeline.”
Senator Lisa Murkoski has called on Secretary Salazar and EPA AdministratorLisa Jackson on many occasions as well. She also spoke and wrote to Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy many times to express her concerns and attempt to speed up the process.
“This agreement is long overdue, but no less welcomed,” Murkowski said. “With this agreement I expect the Corps to move quickly to approve the proposed bridge and allow access to the oil and natural gas reserves within the National Petroleum Reserve.
“I’ve had numerous disagreements with the administration on Alaska issues, but I appreciate the involvement of the White House and the Interior Department in removing this particular roadblock to improving our nation’s energy security,” Murkowski said. “ I hope this important step will lead to further improvements in how applications to drill for oil in Alaska are handled and help the president carry out his May 14 pledge to accelerate development within the NPR-A.”
Representative Don Young released a statement in response to the agreement. He said on his website, “While I welcome today’s announcement by the Obama Administration, the fact of the matter is that this should have happened sooner. The CD-5 project is an important project not only because it will create jobs for Alaskans, but also because it will put this nation on a path towards becoming energy independent. I hope to learn more in the coming days as the conditions of this agreement become clearer; until then, I’m cautiously optimistic that this will in fact lead to the development of the CD-5 project.”
The Corps is expected to carry out the remaining steps associated with the permit review in the coming weeks.