Alaska’s government proposed investing its own cash in an assessment of oil reserves in the U.S. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, seeking to prod the federal government to consider drilling in the protected area.
With the Interior Department working on a management plan for the area, Republican Governor Sean Parnell’s administration said it wants the federal government to study hydrocarbon reserves in the refuge in northeast Alaska.
Parnell sent a letter today to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell outlining a plan for a shared $150 million effort, and members of his administration are in Washington to present the proposal to members of Congress and industry groups. Parnell offered to seek $50 million from state lawmakers.
“When we’ve had this discussion with the federal government, there is a head in the sand -- or head in the tundra -- kind of response,” Daniel Sullivan, the state’s commissioner for natural resources, said today in Washington. “The frustration is: Why wouldn’t you want to know” what oil and gas reserves there are?
The state is proposing to study a portion of the reserve known as Area 1002, which Sullivan 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.
President Barack Obama’s Interior Department issued a conservation plan for ANWR that doesn’t include as an alternative any oil or gas development; it does include the potential for further wilderness designations, according to the state.