Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Proposed Greater Mooses Tooth Oil and Gas Project in Alaska
BLM Releases Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Proposed Greater Mooses Tooth Oil and Gas Project in Alaska
Proposed Plan Balances Resource Protection and Development; Project would be First Production from Federal Land in National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska
WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed Greater Mooses Tooth Unit oil and gas development project (GMT1), opening the way for the first production of oil and gas on federal land in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) and providing a new source for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.
“Reaching this stage of permitting is a major milestone for the project and for the future of balanced, responsible Federal oil production in the NPR-A,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “This SEIS reflects a thorough analysis of the potential environmental effects across a range of development alternatives and is the product of robust public engagement and input from stakeholders, including Alaska Native communities. The GMT1 Final SEIS advances BLM’s NPR-A Integrated Activity Plan and encourages responsible energy development in the Arctic while ensuring that unique Alaskan resources and local subsistence values are protected.”
As proposed by ConocoPhillips, Alaska, Inc., the project would include construction of an 11.8-acre drilling pad in the northern portion of the 23-million acre NPR-A. Along with above-ground elevated pipelines and an electric power line, the GMT1 project would provide access to both Federal and Arctic Slope Regional Corporation oil and gas resources.
The Final SEIS released today identifies Alternative B as the BLM’s Preferred Alternative that would provide for up to 33 development and injection wells on a single well pad at GMT1 as well as an approximately eight and one-half mile gravel road that would provide access for spill and emergency response. The Final SEIS concludes that both Alternatives A and B substantially reduce the potential impacts of aircraft overflights relative to other alternatives, which is particularly important to local communities and subsistence users.
Importantly, the Final SEIS describes a robust and innovative suite of best management practices and mitigation measures to avoid, minimize, and compensate for potential impacts to the environment and subsistence uses. In addition to the Best Management Practices and mitigation measures required by the NPR-A Integrated Activity Plan, the BLM will include in its Record of Decision additional mitigation measures for the project that may include development of a long-term Regional Mitigation and Monitoring Strategy; establishment of a BLM compensatory mitigation fund to promote conservation and restoration in the NPR-A, including potentially legacy well remediation; aircraft and traffic operational requirements to minimize impacts on caribou; a road access agreement to facilitate access for local Native communities while restricting non-local access; and contributions to scientific study to monitor wildlife populations, habitat, and ecosystem processes potentially impacted by development.
The BLM’s extensive public engagement included eight public meetings on the proposal in North Slope villages, Anchorage, and Fairbanks during the 45-day public comment period. The agency received comments from a variety of stakeholders and interest groups, including other Federal agencies, environmental groups, industry, and Alaska Native communities and corporations. The Final SEIS includes consideration of a comprehensive range of possible project alternatives, including roadless and seasonal-development alternatives.
Before making a final decision on the project, the BLM will consider the views of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, which are currently reviewing a Clean Water Act application by ConocoPhillips for the project. The Corps must select the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA), and that decision will be considered in choosing the alternative ultimately selected by the BLM in its Record of Decision.
At about 23 million acres, nearly the size of Indiana, the NPR-A, located on Alaska’s North Slope, is the largest single block of federally managed land in the United States. By law, the BLM administers the NPR-A for the purposes of oil and gas leasing along with protection of areas containing significant subsistence, recreational, fish and wildlife or historical or scenic value. The Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act of 1976 as amended, which transferred the Reserve from the Navy to the Department of the Interior, mandates maximum protection of such areas while conducting an expeditious program of oil and gas leasing.
Since 1999, nine lease sales in the NPR-A have garnered more than $261 million. Currently, 205 authorized leases cover more than 1.73 million acres in the reserve. In 2011, President Obama directed the Secretary of the Interior to conduct annual oil and gas lease sales in the NPR-A. Previously lease sales had been held every two years. The BLM’s 2013 Area-Wide Integrated Activity Plan identified 11 million acres in the NPR-A for protection of natural values while making available 72 percent of technically and economically recoverable barrels of oil for development. To date, only exploratory drilling has occurred in the reserve. The Greater Mooses Tooth project would facilitate the first production and transportation by pipeline of oil from federal lands in the NPR-A.
To view the Final EIS, go to: http://www.blm.gov/ak. The BLM will formally publish the document in the Federal Register on Nov. 7, 2014. A Record of Decision will be issued at least 30 days after the publication of the final SEIS.