Fairbanks, Jan.27.─ Citing biodiversity and Alaska Native subsistence whaling, the Obama administration moved to block development in 9.8 million acres within the Beaufort and Chukchi seas as part of a new five-year outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing program, the draft of which was released Tuesday morning by the Department of the Interior.
The announcement came two days after President Barack Obama said he planned to ask Congress to declare much of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Northeast Alaska as wilderness, including the possibly oil-and-gas-rich coastal plain -- and a month after the president closed waters in and around Bristol Bay to oil and gas development.
Those moves come at a time of increased anxiety within Alaska over the future of the state's oil and gas industry, as well as the impact falling oil prices have on the state's budget. Oil production in the state is declining, despite efforts to jumpstart additional production.
The Draft Proposed Program (PDF) released Tuesday includes 14 potential lease sales, three of which are in the Alaska region.
The White House released maps of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, showing the excluded areas. According to the U.S. Department of Interior, four of the five areas off-limits in the current draft were also off-limits in the previous five-year plan ...
[ Full text ]