Republican victories in the midterm elections could mean it’s open season on Alaska’s energy reserves.
President Bush targeted the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge (ANWR) and the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska for oil
and gas development in his 2001 national energy plan. But
legislation authorizing exploration and development in ANWR failed
to pass the divided Congress. Now, the administration and the new
Republican-controlled Congress will likely renew efforts to drill
in the refuge, while environmentalists will keep pressure on
anti-drilling legislators to block those efforts.
“It would be nice not to have to focus on (another ANWR)
campaign,” says Charles Clusen of the Natural Resources
Defense Council, “but what we need to do now is the same as
before the election.”
Stopping drilling in the
23.5 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve will be tougher,
because the administration doesn’t need approval from
In the late 1990s, with prompting from the oil
industry, President Clinton opened 4.6 million acres of the reserve
to exploratory drilling, but restricted development around
expansive wetlands and other biologically rich areas. Now, as the
BLM prepares a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) to assess
the consequences of exploration in another 9 million acres,
environmental groups fear the agency will give the oil industry
nearly unrestricted drilling rights on the largest single unit of
public land in the U.S.
The BLM will complete the draft
EIS for the reserve and accept public comments in early 2003. For
more information, visit aurora.ak.blm.gov/npra.