Ranking Member Grijalva, Leading Committee Democrats Urge BLM to Protect Vulnerable Arctic Habitat from Aggressive Oil Development

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Reps. Jared Huffman and Alan Lowenthal, both Democrats of California, wrote to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Deputy Director Brian Steed this morning urging him to maintain critical wildlife and caribou habitat protections  near Teshekpuk Lake on Alaska’s North Slope, which a new ConocoPhillips master plan targets for aggressive development despite existing restrictions in the area.

Huffman is ranking member of the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans. Lowenthal is ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. You can read the full letter at http://bit.ly/2NtKZYY.

ConocoPhillips has proposed its Willow Development Plan for part of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, which is currently governed by a 2013 document known as the Integrated Activity Plan (IAP). The IAP – developed after two years of public meetings, tribal outreach efforts, hearings and comment periods – protected the area around Teshekpuk Lake from leasing and other development activities due to that area’s critical importance for migratory birds, waterfowl, and the Teshekpuk Lake Caribou Herd, a vital subsistence resource for North Slope Communities.

As the lawmakers point out in today’s letter, the Willow Master Development Plan would violate the IAP by requiring the construction of new roads and at least one drill pad in parts of the protected area near Teshekpuk Lake.

The lawmakers’ letter was prompted in part by the recent comments of Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Joe Balash, who said in August that a “redeveloped” IAP “will make millions more acres available for leasing.” As the lawmakers point out, “This is completely unnecessary, as demonstrated by the lackluster results of the December 2017 lease sale in the Reserve, where the oil and gas industry bid on less than 1 percent of the acreage offered for lease.” The IAP’s existing balance between conservation and commercial development, the lawmakers write, “should not be undermined just so [Interior] Secretary [Ryan] Zinke can tout another ‘largest ever’ lease sale.”

The level of development ConocoPhillips is proposing – including new roads, drill pads, an airstrip, a new gravel mine and an artificial island – “requires a robust and thorough environmental analysis,” the lawmakers write, cautioning against applying the Trump administration’s arbitrary one-year cap and 300-page limit on impact assessments for this proposed massive oil field.

The lawmakers also call for more careful consideration of development impacts on the nearby community of Nuiqsut. ConocoPhillips’ master plan, they write, “would extend development even further into Nuiqsut’s remaining subsistence use areas and further compound the significant impacts already being experienced by that community due to the breakneck pace of new oil and gas development in the reserve.”

“The people of Nuiqsut do not deserve to become casualties in this administration’s relentless and unnecessary obsession for achieving ‘energy dominance,” the lawmakers write in closing.

Press Contact

Media Contact: Adam Sarvana

(202) 225-6065 or (202) 578-6626 mobile