Public comment period begins for National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska

Pools of water in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's coastal plain, Alaska (Photo from AP Images)
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) The Bureau of Land Management released its draft environmental impact statement for the 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, kicking off a 60-day comment period.

The draft statement analyzes four proposed alternatives with varying degrees of protection and development.

While many have lauded the move to develop the NPR-A as a way to increase domestic oil production, the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) noted significant concerns about the environment from commenters during the scoping period.

Among them are the concerns about using the Teshekpuk Lake area, which many commenters considered important for the caribou herd that uses the area for calving, insect relief, and as a migration corridor.

Only one of the four proposed options in the DEIS designates the Teshekpuk Lake area as under "maximum protection" while the others allow either pipeline construction or oil leasing over the full area.

Commenters also noted concerns about increased water and air traffic changing behavior of marine mammals, which many use for subsistence.

Another concern was potential harm to "sensitive tundra streams" and lakes if water withdrawals from those areas are allowed.

The DEIS noted that some commenters requested that the BLM retain current designations for special protected areas with some requesting increased protections.

The development stems from a 2017 executive order from US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke calling for a review of the Integrated Activity Plan for the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, also known as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The 60-day comment period begins officially on Nov. 22 and will last until Jan. 21, 2020.

Comments can be submitted online here or in person at a meeting. The meeting schedule can be found here.

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