STATEMENT on the Bureau of Land Management’s Final National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska Rule

Apr 19, 2024

DENVER—Today the Bureau of Land Management released its final National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A) Rule, which updates regulations for the management and protection of the NPR-A. The final rule codifies the maximum level of protection for over 13 million acres within Special Areas that have already been designated within the NPR-A and provides a process to propose and designate additional Special Areas in the future.

The BLM will also be required to conduct an evaluation at least once every five years to determine if existing protections in the Special Areas are sufficient and whether to identify and designate new Special Areas. Existing oil and gas operations will not be affected, but future oil and gas development will be allowed only if it will have no or minimal adverse effect on resources in the Special Areas, and more robust mitigation of impacts will be required outside of the Special Areas. Finally, the rule recognizes and protects traditional subsistence uses by Tribal and Indigenous communities.

The BLM also released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Ambler Road Project, rejecting a 211-mile road which would have provided mining-related industrial access to the Ambler Mining District. The road would have fragmented important migratory habitat for the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, one of the largest remaining caribou herds, and crossed 11 major rivers and 3,000 streams, impacting water quality and important fish habitat. These impacts would have threatened subsistence uses of these resources for Indigenous communities. The proposed path for the road also included 26 miles through the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve which currently has no roads or trails.

The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Policy Director Rachael Hamby:

“The final NPR-A rule recognizes that many important values and resources are highly concentrated in the designated Special Areas, including globally-significant wildlife habitat and traditional subsistence resources that Indigenous communities have relied on for generations. Prioritizing the protection of these irreplaceable resources where they are most concentrated is the highest and best use of those lands. Doubling down on oil and gas production in these areas, especially when we should be accelerating the transition to carbon-free energy, simply does not make sense. We are grateful to the Biden administration for bringing greater balance to the management of this iconic landscape so that present and future generations can benefit from these unique resources that exist nowhere else.

 

“We are also grateful to the BLM for rejecting the Ambler Road Project. The proposed industrial mining road would have fragmented one of the largest intact landscapes in the nation so that private companies could profit from minerals for which they would have paid no royalties. Fortunately, the BLM recognizes the importance of protecting this majestic landscape and the vital fish and wildlife habitat it contains.”

The final NPR-A Rule has overwhelming support. A sentiment analysis conducted by the Center for Western Priorities found that 88 percent of the public comments on the rule encouraged the Interior Department to adopt the rule as written, or to limit oil and gas drilling even further.

 

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