Planning for 2019 NPR-A oil lease sale begins as feds pursue opening more Arctic land to drilling

Map of 2018’s oil lease sale results for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. (Courtesy Bureau of Land Management)

The federal government is issuing its annual request for public input on what land should be available for oil leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Led by ConocoPhillips, there are a growing number of oil projects in the federally managed chunk of the western North Slope. Roughly 1.6 million acres of the 22-million acre reserve are leased, according to the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the area.

But the last two oil lease sales in the reserve didn’t generate much interest.

The Interior department is re-evaluating the management plan for the reserve, aiming to open up land that’s currently off-limits to oil leasing.

Some of that land is thought to have high oil potential. But environmental groups are worried because the land overlaps with valuable habitat for migratory birds and other species — namely, the area around Teshekpuk Lake.

This year’s oil lease sale for the Reserve will be limited to the acreage that is currently available. The Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comments until July 22.

But another federally managed area slated for oil leasing this year is likely to get a lot more attention.

The Trump administration aims to hold the first oil lease sale for land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before the end of 2019.

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Elizabeth Harball is a reporter with Alaska's Energy Desk, covering Alaska’s oil and gas industry and environmental policy. She is a contributor to the Energy Desk’s Midnight Oil podcast series. Before moving to Alaska in 2016, Harball worked at E&E News in Washington, D.C., where she covered federal and state climate change policy. Originally from Kalispell, Montana, Harball is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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