Dec 31, 2014

Obama Bars Oil Industry From Alaska's Bristol Bay

Bristol Bay is off limits to oil and gas leasing for exploration, development or production

Bristol Bay, oil and gas development, pollution control, water quality

The decision to withdraw the area from all future oil and gas leasing extends indefinitely a temporary withdrawal that President Obama issued in 2010 and was set to expire in 2017.

This action builds on decades of local efforts to protect Bristol Bay from oil and gas development by Alaska Native tribes and organizations, as well as local seafood and tourism businesses that create jobs and strengthen Alaska and the nation’s economy.

It also honors the legacy of Alaska residents like Harold ‘Harvey’ Samuelsen, a salmon fisherman who is legendary for his lifelong dedication to Bristol Bay and to creating economic opportunities for Alaska Native and rural communities.

The North Aleutian Basin Planning Area that includes Bristol Bay consists of 32.5 million acres, a portion of which was leased in the mid-1980s but never developed due to litigation.

The Bush Administration set in motion a new lease sale for 2011 that would have opened approximately 5.6 million acres – about one-fifth of the planning area – for drilling.

In 2010, President Obama temporarily withdrew the Bristol Bay area from oil and gas development, exercising his authority under section 12 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which gives the President authority to withdraw offshore areas from potential oil and gas leasing.

Under the Outer Continental Shelf Land Act of 1953, the Department of the Interior develops a new leasing program every five years for energy development in federal offshore waters.

The current Five Year Program for 2012-2017, which expires in August 2017, schedules 15 potential lease sales in six planning areas with the greatest resource potential, including more than 75% of the estimated undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore waters.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is developing the 2017-2022 program, which includes opportunities for public comment.

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