The Department of the Interior (DOI) is proposing to restrict energy development in 13 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) under a proposal open for public comment through December 7, 2023. The proposed rule, misleadingly entitled “Management and Protection of the National Petroleum Reserve: Alaska” (FR 2023-18990, published September 7, 2023), relies on flawed analysis and was conducted without consulting Alaska’s Federally recognized tribes, the local government on the North Slope, or Alaska Native corporations.  The DOI’s actions for this proposed rule are in contravention of department policies respecting consultation during periods of subsistence.  The proposed rule threatens Alaska communities and the long-term viability of an oil and gas producing region that’s critical to America’s energy security.  This proposed rule is being fast-tracked without adequate time to properly review and assess the real impacts if finalized.  

The proposed rule would severely change the management of the NPR-A—from land that was set aside by Congress primarily for petroleum development into land that will be managed as wilderness or a park. The rule would require the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to follow new tests and burdensome layers of bureaucratic regulatory process—the kind of process that in practice stops any future development without robust environmental and economic analysis. It is doubtful that any future project could meet the new tests and these new burdens could halt any future oil and gas developments in the NPR-A.  This is in direct tension with the intent and purpose for which the NPR-A was created in 1923.  This proposal would make it effectively impossible for future oil and gas lease sales and development to occur.

The NPR-A is area that was specifically set aside by the federal government for natural resource development, balanced with conservation, to promote America’s national security through energy resources, and it is an asset to the State of Alaska. Responsible development in the NPR-A has occurred for decades and now, more than ever, supports our nation’s energy security, well-paying union jobs and economic benefits for local Alaska Native communities and the state as a whole. 

Please submit a written comment OPPOSING this proposed rule by December 7, 2023.  Suggested points and FAQs are included for your consideration below.

Public comments can be submitted using the following methods:

By Mail:          Department of Interior
                        Director, Bureau of Land Management
                        1849 C St. NW, Room 5646
                        Washington, DC 20240
                        ATTENTION: 1004-AW95


The Proposed NPR-A Rule is a Threat to America’s Energy Security:
-       Analysis from the U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are 8.7 billion barrels of undiscovered oil in the NPR-A, an area set aside by the Federal government specifically for petroleum development.
-       By denying or dramatically restricting development in the region, the Administration is denying Alaskans—and all Americans—reliable, affordable energy, as well as billions of dollars in revenues.
-       We cannot afford to further limit U.S. production, which will only increase our reliance on foreign nations, including adversarial nations, amid rising geopolitical threats.
-       At a time when oil prices are rising and global supply can be easily constricted by foreign governments, investing in domestic oil production is a matter of national and energy security. 
-       At a time of high inflation across the country, this misguided rule will almost certainly lead to higher energy prices for working class families across America. Restricting access to energy development limits consumers’ access to affordable, reliable energy. 
-       Oil production on the North Slope and in the NPR-A contributes to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), a vital piece of U.S. infrastructure. 
-       Oil produced in the NPR-A will keep TAPS economically viable and capable of providing oil to the rest of the United States and beyond. 
Current NPR-A Regulations Support Balanced and Responsible Development:
-       Current oil production in the NPR-A is subject to local, state and federal regulations.
-       Under existing regulations, production in the NPR-A must abide by the 2013 NPR-A Integrated Activity Plan, which was issued by the Obama-Biden Administration. 
-       The 2013 NPR-A IAP provides stringent requirements for environmental protection and designated specific areas available for oil and gas development. A new rule is unnecessary to protect the NPR-A. 
-       The current regulatory scheme appropriately balances oil and gas development with protection of surface resources as required by the Naval Petroleum Reserve Production Act.
The Proposed NPR-A Rule Relies on Flawed Economic Analysis:
-       The DOI’s analysis in support of the proposed rule did not account for the significant economic benefits delivered to local Alaska communities (including Alaska Native organizations) from NPR-A development.
-       Federal law mandates that 50% of lease revenue from NPR-A projects go towards a unique grant program that prioritizes improvement projects that will deliver social and environmental justice benefits to impacted communities, many of which are Alaska Native communities. The economic analysis fails to consider the impact of local communities losing these benefits.
-       The economic analysis also wholly fails to consider the social implications of eliminating or dramatically restricting future development in the NPR-A that would remove jobs and a substantial portion of the tax base.
-       Responsible development on the NPR-A creates enormous economic benefits. The economic analysis the DOI used ignores benefits like the NPR-A Impact Mitigation Grant program.
  • This grant program creates a legal requirement for local communities to receive generous revenues from projects. If project development is slowed or halted by the new rule, Alaska Native communities will lose enormous revenues for public services, health facilities and educational resources—to name a few impacted areas.
-       Diminished oil production from the NPR-A would result in diminished production tax and ad valorem tax revenue for the State and local governments in Alaska. This means less revenue for the State of Alaska to provide services to Alaskans.
The Proposed NPR-A Rule Will Discourage Future Investment in the Region:
-       The “bait-and-switch” nature of the proposed rule will stifle any future development in currently approved areas of the NPR-A as companies will be wary to invest into developments in areas where the government can seemingly outlaw further development without cause.
The Proposed NPR-A Rule was Put Forward without Consulting Alaska Native Organizations:
-       The DOI ignored its federal responsibilities to consult with federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native corporations who stand to be impacted by the proposed rule.
-       The Bureau of Land Management should not fail in its responsibility to consult with Alaska’s federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native corporations, meaningful consultation as required by E.O. 13175 (November 6, 2000), POTUS Memo on Tribal Consultation and Nation-to-Nation Building (January 26, 2021) and DOI 512 DM 4 (2015), and DOI 512 DM 5.
The Proposed NPR-A Rule Will Not Withstand Legal Scrutiny
-       The rule conflicts with the law Congress adopted for the NPR-A, directing that the NPR-A be administered for domestic energy production through an oil and gas leasing program.
-       If approved, the proposed rule would have significant negative impacts on the permit approval process—even for leases that existed prior to the rule’s implementation. Given the harm to existing lease contracts as well as a clear conflict with the NPR-A’s purpose to develop petroleum, this rule will likely be subject to costly and lengthy litigation. 
Question 1: Doesn’t the proposed rule just adopt the existing IAP into the regulations?
The Integrated Activity Plan (IAP) for the NPR-A reflects a balanced approach to development and conservation. BLM initially adopted the IAP in 2013, then readopted it in 2022 on the basis of a robust public process that occurred over years and involved two environmental impact statements. The proposed new rule, which has not had public input or full analysis, does not reflect a similar balance. Under the rule as proposed, BLM would use new and different processes to consider development proposals, and few if any proposals for future oil and gas development would be approved. 
Question 2: The proposed rules says it does not affect existing leases, so why is it a problem?
Although the proposed rule does not rescind existing leases in the NPR-A, it imposes significant new burdens on getting permit approval for any future infrastructure for development and production on the existing leases. Each of the new requirements will result in delay, deferral, or denial of any future development proposal. The proposed rule provides no clarity on what type of development proposal, if any, could be approved in the future.
Question 3: The proposed rule says it is just administrative. 
If the purpose of the proposed rule is merely administrative, there would be no problem with taking the time for a full and transparent public process and stakeholder consultation to ensure the end result reflects that purpose. As currently proposed, however, the rule would impose significant new burdens on development proposals, which is a substantive change rather than an administrative clarification.
Question 4: What are some examples of burdens found in the proposed rules? 
Here are four examples: 
  • Even on existing leases, BLM “will presume” that new infrastructure “should not be permitted unless specific information . . . clearly demonstrates that those activities can be conducted with no or minimal adverse effects.”  § 2361.40(c). 
  • For new development proposals, BLM “must prepare a Statement of Adverse Effect” meeting six new criteria, and also put the Statement out for public comment. § 2361.40(f), (g).
  • In “special areas,” where many existing oil and gas leases are located, BLM “must adopt measures to assure maximum protection of significant resource values. Once adopted, these measures . . . supersede . . . the IAP.” § 2361.30(a)(7). 
  • BLM will “identify and evaluate any reasonably foreseeable effects of its decision, including . . . the incremental effects of the proposed activities when added to the effects of other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable actions.” § 2361.10(b)(3).