petroleum reserve in Alaska

National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska

The Nation­al Petro­le­um Reserve-Alas­ka was estab­lished in 1923 as a source for oil for the U.S. Navy. At over 23 mil­lion acres, the reserve is the largest sin­gle unit of pub­lic lands in the coun­try. Despite hav­ing petro­le­um” in its name, some of the most valu­able fish and wildlife habi­tat in the Arc­tic Coastal Plain is found with­in the reserve. This includes the bio­log­i­cal­ly rich Teshekpuk Lake region and parts of the Utukok Riv­er Uplands, which are home to a wide array of wildlife, includ­ing polar bears, migra­to­ry birds, wolves, griz­zly bears and cari­bou. The Naval Petro­le­um Reserves Pro­duc­tion Act gov­erns BLM’s man­age­ment of the reserve.

2017-2021

  • Novem­ber 2019

    In Novem­ber 2019, the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment (BLM) released a draft Envi­ron­men­tal Impact State­ment (EIS) and draft Inte­grat­ed Activ­i­ty Plan to open an addi­tion­al 6.6 mil­lion acres of the reserve to new oil and gas leas­ing. The expan­sion would include cru­cial wildlife habi­tat that BLM des­ig­nat­ed as off-lim­its to leas­ing in its 2013 Inte­grat­ed Activ­i­ty Plan, which was com­plet­ed after exten­sive research and broad pub­lic involve­ment. Accord­ing to BLM’s own esti­mate, the result­ing oil and gas devel­op­ment could lead to down­stream emis­sions increas­es equiv­a­lent to up to one bil­lion tons of car­bon pollution.

  • Jan­u­ary 2020

    A coali­tion of twelve attor­neys gen­er­al led by Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Xavier Becer­ra filed com­ments in Jan­u­ary 2020 crit­i­ciz­ing BLM’s plan. In their com­ments, the attor­neys gen­er­al high­light­ed the plan’s vio­la­tions of the Naval Petro­le­um Reserves Pro­tec­tion Act, point­ing to spe­cif­ic pro­tec­tions under the law for the Teshekpuk Lake wet­lands com­plex, as well as pro­tec­tions in BLM’s 2013 plan. The com­ments not­ed that the draft EIS fails to pro­vide any expla­na­tion or jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the expan­sion of leas­ing into these areas. The attor­neys gen­er­al also point­ed out the plan’s fail­ure to ade­quate­ly account for poten­tial cli­mate impacts, espe­cial­ly with regard to migra­to­ry birds, empha­siz­ing that con­di­tions are worse now for the Reserve’s wildlife than they were in 2013 as the result of the inten­si­fy­ing impacts of cli­mate change.

  • June 2020

    In June 2020, BLM issued its final Envi­ron­men­tal Impact State­ment, select­ing as its pre­ferred alter­na­tive an option that offers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to lease over 18 mil­lion acres of the Nation­al Petro­le­um Reserve-Alas­ka. In Decem­ber 2020, BLM issued its record of deci­sion to adopt the pre­ferred alter­na­tive option.