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Rep. Les Gara during constituent meetingA Note from Rep. Les Gara
Hurdle Cleared: Oil Development
in National Petroleum Reserve
Moving Forward

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Dear Neighbors

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Aloha from vacation, where my wife Kelly accidentally closed the door jamb on a gecko. I did want to send you a piece of good Alaska news, involving an issue I’ve been working on.

Who knows what impact public comment ever has? You hope it matters, so you comment. That’s why this spring I and others wrote an array of federal officials to say that ConocoPhillips' proposed development in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A) was in Alaska's and the nation's interests.  When the US Army Corps of Engineers effectively blocked oil development there by denying a needed bridge permit, I was concerned. I spoke to my colleagues about writing a letter explaining that production was falling on the North Slope, and access to this area, reserved for oil development, was crucial to our efforts to stem and hopefully reverse the decline in North Slope oil production. Our letter is available HERE.

We felt that if officials heard this concern from more than just the interested leaseholder, it might help. I also had a conversation this summer with a Department of the Interior official who promised public comment would be helpful on this issue.

Development in NPR-A is important for many reasons.  It opens a vast new area for North Slope oil development and, political wrangling on oil taxes aside, ConocoPhillips announced its plans to drill in this area, called the CD-5 unit, before there was talk of changing our oil tax law. So this project will now move forward at the same time we are slated for a busy exploration season on the North Slope, with exploration wells to be drilled by Spanish giant Repsol, Great Bear and others.

That's all good news. Kudos to the federal officials who, I suspect, intervened to help convince the Army Corps that their decision should be modified. 

It is also good news because the President announced this fall that there will be at least one new lease sale in this area in each of the coming years. That's welcome news to Alaskans.

While local residents will voice their concerns about some environmentally sensitive smaller sections of this reserve, the CD-5 area is not one of them.

Ok, I have a gecko corpse to go deal with. I hope all is well. The following is a press release that went out in this issue yesterday.

Best Regards,

[signed] Les Gara

Democrats Welcome Agreement on New NPR-A Oil Development

PRESS RELEASE • December 5, 2011

Agreement between federal agencies and ConocoPhillips means more exploration, jobs

Today, Alaska House Democrats welcomed news that federal agencies have reached an agreement in principle with ConocoPhillips that could allow the company to go forward with its plans for a major new development in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A). ConocoPhillips first applied for its permit to expand the Alpine field into the NPR-A over a year ago.
“I’m excited that Conoco will finally be able to move ahead with this important new development and that Alaskans will at last be able to share the jobs and benefits of tapping the resources in the NPR-A.” said Rep. Bob Miller (D-Fairbanks). “I hope this project will be able to move forward this drilling season.”
“I am excited to hear the forward progress on the bridge permit,” said Minority Whip Rep. Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). “This will not only help ConocoPhillips with development of their leases in NPR-A, but other current and future NPR-A leaseholders as well.”
House Democrats have been diligently pressing the federal agencies to resolve their concerns over the permits so ConocoPhillips could move ahead with the Alpine satellite field. In February, fourteen Alaska Democrats wrote to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal officials encouraging them to reverse the Corps’ decision to block ConocoPhillips’ development of the CD-5 Alpine Development in the NPR-A.
“We wanted the feds to know this was a bi-partisan, Alaska issue. We need the oil development, and Conoco has announced it will develop in NPR-A under the existing ACES tax law once it gets the bridge permit it applied for over a year ago” said Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage).
If this project goes forward, it could add to what is poised to be the busiest exploration season in the past two decades, all occurring under the current ACES tax law, with exploration drilling announcements already made by Great Bear, Repsol, Ultra Star, Linc Energy, and Brooks Range Petroleum.
“What’s the point of having a national petroleum reserve if you can’t access it for oil development?” asked Rep. Pete Petersen (D-Anchorage). “It’s too bad it’s been delayed this long, but I’m encouraged that this new development should get going soon.”
Read the Feb. 28, 2011 letter from Alaska Democrats here.
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