Alaska sued the Obama administration over its rejection of an oil and gas exploration plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as the state seeks to determine the extent of energy resources in the area.
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell said exploration for the coastal plain of the wildlife area was mandated by a federal Alaska land conservation act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused to review the plan, citing a legal opinion by the Interior Department issued in 1987 claiming provisions of the law had expired, Parnell said in a complaint filed in federal court in Anchorage, Alaska.
“It is both disappointing and disturbing that the Obama administration, which claims that it is pursuing an ‘all of the above’ energy policy, is afraid to let the people of the United States learn more about ANWR’s oil and gas resources,” Parnell, a Republican, said in a statement. “The modern technology that we are seeking to use is responsibly utilized all across the North Slope with extremely limited environmental impact, and would dramatically improve our understanding of ANWR’s resources.”
The state is proposing to study a portion of the reserve known as Area 1002, which Alaska officials said covers 3,000 square miles (4,800 square kilometers) and is less than a tenth of the entire Arctic reserve. Estimates from 30 years ago put the median volume of oil in the refuge at 10.4 billion barrels, according to the state of Alaska.
Parnell sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in 2013 outlining a plan for a shared $150 million effort. He offered to seek $50 million from state lawmakers, according to the lawsuit. Alaska’s plan would use advanced three-dimensional seismic imaging to find the “extent and accessibility of the significant oil and gas resources” in the coastal plain of ANWR, Parnell said.
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional director rejected the plan without evaluating its compliance with regulations, according to the lawsuit.
Parnell claims the U.S. has violated the federal Alaska Interest Lands Conservation Act and seeks a court order forcing the government to review the plan, blocking it from applying the expiration dates it has cited and declaring its refusal to do so as “arbitrary and capricious.”
The complaint names Jewell and the Fish and Wildlife Service as defendants. Jessica Kershaw, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment on the lawsuit.
The case is Alaska v. Jewel, 14-cv-00048, U.S. District Court, District of Alaska.