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North Slope Drilling Alaska O K*

January 23, 2004


Interior Finishes Plan On Alaska Drilling

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton signed off on a plan Thursday for opening most of an 8.8 million-acre swath of Alaska's North Slope to oil and gas development. Some of the drilling could occur in areas important for migratory birds, whales and wildlife.

The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management will use the plan to manage a northwest portion of the government's 23.5 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve -- Alaska. Geologists believe the reserve may contain 6 billion to 13 billion barrels of oil.

It is just west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where President Bush wants to open a 1.5 million-acre coastal plain to drilling as one of his top energy priorities. The Senate, in debating a massive energy bill, has rejected drilling there.

Environmentalists said the management plan threatens the health of Arctic tundra, ponds and lakes that are home to wildlife and migratory birds and provide a vital subsistence hunting and fishing ground for native Alaskans.

"It makes no sense to industrialize this incomparable wilderness area when there's only about six month's worth of economically recoverable oil...and it would take at least 10 years to get it to market," said Charles Clusen, director of the Alaska lands project for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.



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