PROPOSED NPR-A REGULATIONS ARE POOR POLICY RESULTING FROM A FLAWED PROCESS
In early September, the Department of the Interior published new regulations regarding the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) that would restrict energy development—and they did so without properly consulting the indigenous communities as required by law.
The result? The proposed regulations are poor policy due to a flawed process.
This NPR-A is an area that was set aside by the federal government for natural resource development, balanced with conservation, to promote America’s national security through energy resources, and it is an asset to the State of Alaska. Responsible development in the NPR-A would further support our nation’s energy security, well-paying union jobs and economic benefits for local Alaska Native communities and the state as a whole.
- The Administration did not consult Alaska Native communities, especially those living closest to the NPR-A.
- Responsible development on the NPR-A creates enormous economic benefits. The economic analysis the DOI used ignores benefits like the NPR-A Impact Mitigation Grant program.
- If approved, the proposed rule would have significant negative impacts on the permit approval process—even for leases that existed prior to the rule’s implementation. Given the harm to existing lease contracts as well as a clear conflict with the NPR-A’s purpose to develop petroleum, this rule will likely be subject to costly and lengthy litigation.
THE NPR-A’S STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE
- The NPR-A was set aside and designated specifically for petroleum development, balanced with conservation, to ensure America’s national security through access to energy.
- At a time when oil prices are rising and global supply can be easily constricted by foreign governments, investing in domestic oil production is a matter of national and energy security.
- At a time of high inflation across the country, this misguided rule will almost certainly lead to higher energy prices for working class families across America. Restricting access to energy development limits consumers’ access to affordable, reliable energy.
- Oil production on the North Slope and in the NPR-A contributes to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), a vital piece of U.S. infrastructure.
CURRENT NPR-A REGULATIONS SUPPORT BALANCED AND RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT
- Current oil production in the NPR-A is subject to local, state, and federal regulations.
- Under existing regulations, production in the NPR-A must abide by the 2013 NPR-A Integrated Activity Plan, which was issued by the Obama-Biden Administration.
- The 2013 NPR-A IAP provides stringent requirements for environmental protection and designated specific areas available for oil and gas development. A new rule is unnecessary to protect NPR-A.
- The current regulatory scheme appropriately balances oil and gas development with protection of surface resources as required by the Navel Petroleum Reserve Production Act.
FALSE CLAIMS FROM THE DEPARMENT OF INTERIOR REGARDING PROPOSED REGULATIONS
False Claim #1: The proposed rule just adopts the existing IAP into regulation.
Fact: The Integrated Activity Plan (IAP) for the NPR-A reflects a balanced approach to development and conservation. BLM initially adopted the IAP in 2013, then readopted it in 2022 on the basis of a robust public process that occurred over years and involved two environmental impact statements. The proposed new rule, which has not had public input or full analysis, does not reflect a similar balance. Under the rule as proposed, BLM would use new and different processes to consider development proposals, and few if any proposals for future oil and gas development would be approved.
False Claim #2: The proposed rules do not affect existing leases.
Although the proposed rule does not rescind existing leases in the NPR-A, it imposes significant new burdens on getting permit approval for any future infrastructure for development and production on the existing leases. Each of the new requirements will result in delay, deferral, or denial of any future development proposal. The proposed rule provides no clarity on what type of development proposal, if any, could be approved in the future.
False Claim #3: The proposed rule is just administrative.
If the purpose of the proposed rule is merely administrative, there would be no problem with taking the time for a full and transparent public process and stakeholder consultation to ensure the end result reflects that purpose. As currently proposed, however, the rule would impose significant new burdens on development proposals, which is a substantive change rather than an administrative clarification.
False Claim #4: There are no new burdens on development proposals in the proposed rule.
Here are four examples of NEW burdens found in the proposed rules:
- Even on existing leases, BLM “will presume” that new infrastructure “should not be permitted unless specific information . . . clearly demonstrates that those activities can be conducted with no or minimal adverse effects.” § 2361.40(c).
- For new development proposals, BLM “must prepare a Statement of Adverse Effect” meeting six new criteria, and also put the Statement out for public comment. § 2361.40(f), (g).
- In “special areas,” where many existing oil and gas leases are located, BLM “must adopt measures to assure maximum protection of significant resource values. Once adopted, these measures . . . supersede . . . the IAP.” § 2361.30(a)(7).
- BLM will “identify and evaluate any reasonably foreseeable effects of its decision, including . . . the incremental effects of the proposed activities when added to the effects of other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable actions.” § 2361.10(b)(3).
A 60-day comment period for the proposed rule will close on November 7, and we urge all to share comments regarding why this is a bad policy that does not support Alaska Native communities, organized labor, or our energy independence. Given the rushed process, we urge you to submit a first comment advocating for a rule deadline extension so Indigenous groups and communities across our state may be appropriately consulted. To provide comments, visit the Management and Protection of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska proposed rule at regulations.gov.