In 2017, United States’ Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke ordered officials to re-write the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A) management plan written under former President Barack Obama’s administration, which had blocked nearly half of the 22 million-acre NPR-A from energy exploration.
The Interior Department is determining which areas can be open to oil and gas exploration and for conservation purposes. The new management plan aims to boost Alaska’s oil and gas industry, which has experienced declining production. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the NPR-A is estimated to hold 8.7 billion barrels of oil and 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The NPR-A is the largest block of land owned by the federal government, which was set aside by Congress decades ago for oil and gas production for the U.S. Navy. The Trump administration held the largest NPR-A lease sale ever in 2017, offering nine hundred tracts of land totaling around 10 million acres.
In 2013, the Obama administration declared 11.8 million acres of NPR-A off-limits to drilling, siding with environmental activists who argued enough land is already being developed, opening more land could harm the NPR-A’s ecosystem, and claiming there’s little industry interest in developing more. Energy companies and Republicans argued otherwise, saying the Obama administration’s plan hampered operations in the region and put potentially productive areas out of reach.
The Trump administration is also moving forward with opening the coastal “1002” area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Drilling is supported by the tribe that lives on the coastal plain but opposed by those living in ANWR’s interior where there will be no drilling.