By Nancy Lockwood
Channel 2 News
9:34 PM AKST, December 19, 2012
The Department of the Interior released its final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Wednesday with regards to the area in Northern Alaska known as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The statement was received with mixed responses from Alaskans. The plan allows for the designation of five areas of the NPR-A to be designated as "special areas" wherein oil exploration and development would not be permitted.
Alaskan Congressman Don Young released a statement on Wednesday in which he described the plan as "misguided" and questioned the economic feasibility of the future pipelines which would be allowed under it.
"This plan does nothing more than cave to environmental special interests and unnecessarily restricts access to rich oil and natural gas resources within a petroleum reserve," said Young.
Senator Lisa Murkowski issued a written statement in which she claimed that Wednesday's announcement has significant discrepancies between the indicated area open for development and the actual percentage of resources which would be recoverable under the plan. "This is totally unacceptable to the nation and to future economy of Alaska," she said.
Senator Mark Begich welcomed the new proposal with reservations. He said he was pleased that federal officials, including U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, listened to his persistent demands to allow oil development and shipment through the NPR-A, but "unnecessary barriers remain to making additional acreage available for leasing."
Environmentalists commended the BLM on the IES. Wildlife Conservation Society Chief Conservation Officer, John Robinson, described Wednesday's statement as, "a very durable victory for wildlife conservation."
Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska Regional Director of The Wilderness Society, said the protected areas in the NPR-A serve as important calving habitats for caribou, relief habitats for insects, and nesting for shore-birds and waterfowl.
Alaska Oil and Gas Association expressed disappointment today in the bureau's statement. Kara Moriarty, Executive Director of AOGA, said, "All this plan does is continue to block access to what we think are potential both oil and gas resources."
The statement issued Wednesday by BLM is the first comprehensive land management plan ever developed for the NPR-A.
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