U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (both R-Alaska) and U.S. Representative Mary Sattler Peltola (D-Alaska), today released the following joint statement after the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced an up to six-month delay for the finalization of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) for the proposed Ambler Access Project (AAP). The AAP, which is guaranteed access across federal land under a 1980 law, is now in its eighth year of federal permitting.
“We are incredibly frustrated by this latest delay for the Ambler Access Project. Earlier this month, Secretary Haaland testified to Congress that a ROD would be issued by the end of this year. We do not understand how just two weeks later, her Department can abruptly reverse course and announce a six-month delay,” the Alaska Delegation said.“This needless delay comes as this project continues to gain support from Alaska Natives and local communities. It costs us high-paying jobs for Alaskans and a domestic source of minerals that are crucial to the energy transition and national security. We are committed to holding Interior accountable to the original timeline it provided to the Court to address two discreet deficiencies in the EIS, and have requested a meeting with Secretary Haaland to urge her to put this vital project back on track.”
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980 guaranteed a right-of-way (ROW) across federal lands for the proposed Ambler Road. Federal permitting for the AAP began in 2015 and included a rigorous environmental review and environmental and economic analysis (EEA). After holding 18 public meetings and considering over 3,000 unique public comments, in July 2020, the Secretaries of the Interior and Transportation signed a ROD selecting the Northern Alignment as the approved route for the road. That same month, after holding 21 public meetings and reviewing over 21,000 public comments, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a joint ROD choosing Alternative A as the preferred alternative; subsequently BLM and National Park Service issued a 50-year ROW permit for the AAP.
In February 2022, on the very same day that President Biden held an event to tout the need for critical minerals, Interior sought a voluntary court remand to conduct an SEIS for the AAP. The court agreed to that remand in May 2022, but placed conditions on it to ensure it would move forward expeditiously. Despite that, a full year later, DOI has not even issued a draft SEIS for public comment.
Completing the SEIS in a timely fashion will allow local Alaska Native stakeholders and communities to fully evaluate the impacts of the proposed road and their support for responsible development in the region.
Approval of the AAP will provide access to the Ambler Mining District, which contains domestic supply of minerals essential to the clean energy transition and national security, including copper, cobalt, zine, and gallium. Many reports have pointed to the urgent need to responsibly develop more of these minerals, but the continued failure to do so will only work against secure domestic supply chains, affordable goods for American families and businesses, and the broader energy transition.