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US Plans Opening Arctic Area to Oil & Gas Exploration

US Plans Opening Arctic Area to Oil & Gas Exploration
WASHINGTON - A petroleum-rich section of Alaska's Arctic coastline will be opened up for oil and gas exploration under a plan the US Bureau of Land Management released Friday.

"These resources will enhance domestic energy production and decrease dependence on foreign oil sources," said Henri Bisson, Alaska state director for the government agency, in a statement.

The area to be opened up -- the northeast section of the National Petroleum Reserve -- contains an estimated 2 billion barrels of oil and 3.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. It is a small part of the National Petroleum Reserve, which is estimated to contain between 5.9 billion to 13.2 billion barrels of oil.

The government's latest plan reverses a policy set in 1998 by former President Bill Clinton that restricted drilling in much of this area. According to the release, the new plan would open up 629,000 acres to regulated winter exploration activities.

Bisson, in releasing the administration's latest plan, called tapping into these resources "crucial to our future."

"Energy is an important component of our daily lives. There are 190 million vehicles and 56 million homes that depend on oil and gas each and every day," he said, estimating that development in the area could ultimately supply at least 100 million Americans with gasoline for a year.

Still, Bisson vowed the latest plan would minimize environmental impacts to the land.

For example leasing on a 211,000 area including Teshekpuk Lake would be deferred. In addition, surface occupancy restrictions would be imposed on 217,000 acres north of the lake to protect wildlife habitats.

"We believe we have devised a way to allow industry to look for that oil and at the same time keep in place or expand a number of protective measures designed to minimize potential adverse impacts on caribou, molting geese and subsistence harvests," he said.

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