Democratic News

Mar 28 2002

Bingaman Asks Interior Department To Release Data on National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska

Resource Assessment Nearly Completed; Data To Inform Senate Debate on ANWR

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Senate Energy Committee chairman, today asked Interior Secretary Gale Norton to release preliminary results of a U.S. Geological Survey assessment of the estimated oil and gas resources in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A). That work is near-final and is scheduled to be released in mid-May. “This information would be extremely useful to the Senate as we debate the future of the environmentally sensitive coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” Bingaman noted to Norton in a letter. “Knowing the extent of alternative supplies of oil and gas is of assistance in the debate on whether drilling should be allowed in the Arctic Refuge.” Bingaman pointed out that several alternatives to drilling in the refuge have been identified. “Clearly, North Slope natural gas can be an important source of energy for our nation, assuming an appropriate transportation system is constructed,” he said. The energy legislation that the Senate is now considering contains provisions intended to facilitate construction of such a system. “Similarly, there are 32 million acres of the Outer Continental Shelf off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi that have been already leased by the government to oil companies for exploration and production that could serve as an important source of energy for our country.” The chairman made it plain to the Secretary that he believes that the NPR-A can be an enormously important source of oil and gas for our nation. “This 23 million-acre reserve of public land, located west of the Arctic Refuge, was set aside in 1923 because of its oil resources. The NPR-A is already open to oil and gas development without a further Act of Congress.” By all accounts, the NPR-A holds great promise for oil and gas production. When the Bureau of Land Management conducted a lease sale on a portion of the NPR-A in May 1999, there was an extremely high level of industry interest. Drilling has already taken place in the NPR-A, and there have been significant and promising finds. “While I understand that USGS policy is not to release data in preliminary form, I also understand that much of this work, including the estimates of technically-recoverable oil and gas resources in the NPR-A, is substantially completed,” said Bingaman. “The issue of developing oil and gas in the environmentally sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has taken on national significance and is likely to be the subject of debate when the Senate returns from its Spring Recess. “For these reasons,” he concluded, “I request that the latest estimates regarding oil and gas resources in the NPR-A be made available to the Senate at this time -- even if these data must be qualified in some fashion. The Senate would benefit from this analysis and information as it continues its consideration of this very important topic.” # # #