By MICHAEL BASTASCH
The Trump administration began the process of re-writing an Obama-era land management plan Tuesday that kept half the roughly 22.1-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) off limits to energy exploration.
The Interior Department will look at what areas can be opened to oil and gas exploration and what should be left off-limits for conservation purposes. The move will expand the acreage open to drilling.
“We think it’s time to reevaluate some of the areas that were previously left unavailable for leasing, as well as open up avenues for infrastructure to be installed — both pipelines and, potentially, roads,” Joe Balash, Interior’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management, told reporters, Bloomberg reported.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke ordered officials to re-write the NPR-A management plan in 2017. Zinke’s order was meant to “jump-start” Alaska’s oil and gas industry, which has seen declining production.
Republicans and energy companies argued the Obama administration’s plan hampered operations in the region and put potentially productive areas out of reach. (RELATED: New York Times Suggests Global Warming Might Be Worse Than Biblical Plagues)