US Arctic oil from ANWR Section 1002?

Friday, June 9, 2017

President Trump's first proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018 includes a line item for "Lease oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)".  According to the budget proposal, opening ANWR to oil and gas leasing would reduce the federal deficit by a total of $1.8 billion between 2018 and 2027.  A more detailed departmental overview notes, "the budget includes proposed legislation to authorize leasing for oil and gas in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with the first lease sale estimated to begin in 2022 or 2023."

ANWR was established by Congress in 1980, through the enactment of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).  In Section 1003 of that act, Congress declared that the "production of oil and gas from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is prohibited and no leasing or other development leading to production of oil and gas from the [Refuge] shall be undertaken until authorized by an act of Congress."

But Congress "deferred a decision on the management of oil and gas exploration and development" about 1.5 million acres of ANWR, or about 8% of the refuge, located in the coastal plain.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Potential for oil and gas discovery is great because the area is an extension of the productive trends west of the area toward Prudhoe Bay and east toward the Canadian discoveries of the Mackenzie Delta." 

Section 1002 of ANILCA provided for a special assessment of resources in the ANWR coastal plain.  The stated purpose of Section 1002 is "to provide for a comprehensive and continuing inventory and assessment of the fish and wildlife resources of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; an analysis of the impacts of oil and gas exploration development, and production, and to authorize exploratory activity within the coastal plain in a manner that avoids significant adverse effects on the fish and wildlife and other resources."  Following the studies' completion, in 1987 the Department of Interior issued a report to Congress called the Coastal Plain Resource Assessment and Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS).

The U.S. Geological Survey issued an updated report in 1998, generally finding a greater likelihood of more economically recoverable oil than previously estimated (with some projections suggesting 10-12 billion barrels of reserves).

An act of Congress would be required before drilling could occur in the 1002 area.

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