A plan for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar comments on the proposed management plan for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska following a visit to the North Slope Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Erik Hill)For the first time ever, the entire expanse of the 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska will fall under a comprehensive management plan, released in a final proposal Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

The plan, which is intended to strike a balance between energy development and wildlife protection, allows for pipelines to carry offshore oil across its lands and for the development of oil and gas reserves within NPR-A itself. It also maintains protections for areas “containing significant subsistence, recreational, fish and wildlife or historical or scenic value.

“As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy to continue to expand domestic energy production, this comprehensive plan will guide the transition from leasing and exploration to responsible production and transport of the Reserve’s substantial oil and gas resources,” Secretary Salazar said in a prepared release. “A balanced approach will allow us to continue to expand our leasing in the NPR-A, as we’ve done over the last three years, while protecting significant caribou herds, migratory bird habitat and sensitive coastal resources that are critically important to the culture and subsistence lifestyle of Alaska Natives and our nation’s conservation heritage.”

The plan won’t be final until the end of January, giving the public one month to comment on the Integrated Activity Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement that was issued Dec. 19.

The management plan allows for access to oil and gas resources on 11.8 million acres. Of those, 1.4 million acres are covered by 177 authorized leases. To date, ConocoPhillips is the only lease holder to get the okay to engage in commercial oil and gas production in the Reserve.

While the Obama administration seems pleased with its plan for the Reserve, not everyone is on board.

Calling the plan a “misguided” effort that caved to “environmental special interests” and which “unnecessarily restricts access to rich oil and natural gas resources,” U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, criticized the plan’s lack of a more defined pipeline vision by which oil and gas from the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas could be transported to the trans-Alaska pipeline.

“I remain concerned about the economic feasibility of future pipelines it would allow,” Young said in a press release Tuesday.

NPR-A management plan documents can be found here. Secretary Salazar’s memo announcing the plan can be found here.

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