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Obama admin to withdraw millions of Alaska acres from development

The administration‚??s plan would lock up half of the 23 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve, which was set aside in 1923 to ensure a domestic supply of oil.

The Obama administration‚??s plan to lock up nearly half of the National Petroleum Reserve from energy production has drawn criticism from key Alaska officials and I√Īupiat Eskimos who say the plan is unacceptable and should be canceled.

The 23 million acre reserve on Alaska‚??s north slope was set aside by Congress 90 years ago to preserve the domestic supply of oil and gas, and critics say the proposal shelves the most prosperous lands.

‚??At a minimum, the administration‚??s proposed management plan would add uncertainty and delay development projects at a time when the U.S. badly needs both the energy and the jobs,‚?Ě said Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). ‚??It begs the question, if we can‚??t develop (the reserve), where will this administration let us develop? Their proposed management plan is unacceptable to me and as long as I‚??m in Washington D.C., these recommendations will never see the light of day.‚?Ě

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican, officially withdrew the state from further cooperation with the Interior Department unless the plan is canceled.

The ‚??surprise announcement‚?Ě and ‚??complete failure‚?Ě of the federal government to consider numerous concerns expressed by the state ‚??shows a complete lack of respect for the views of the state,‚?Ě Parnell said in a Sept. 12 letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The Aug. 13 announcement, made with little fanfare after Congress left town for the summer recess, restricts leases for energy development to less than 12 million acres that the government estimates holds 549 million barrels of oil. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated in 2002 there were 9 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the reserve, but revised their estimate in 2010 to less than 900 million barrels.

By limiting energy production, the plan would protect ‚??world-class caribou herds, migratory bird habitat, uplands, and sensitive coastal resources that are central to the culture and subsistence lifestyle of Alaska natives and our nation‚??s conservation heritage,‚?Ě the announcement said.

Local support disputed

However, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) that represents the interests of the I√Īupiat in Barrow, Alaska, is opposed to the plan and disputes Salazar‚??s contention it has local support.

Richard Glenn, ASRC executive vice president of lands and natural resources, says ‚??despite the department‚??s statements of working and collaborating with Alaska Native groups we feel that our efforts are rejected.‚?Ě

‚??Salazar‚??s choice would lock up large swaths of land with little or no additional benefit to wildlife resources found there and elsewhere throughout the petroleum reserve. Waterfowl, fish and caribou do not recognize boxes on a map,‚?Ě Glenn said.

Rex A. Rock, Sr., ARSC president, said the plan essentially locks up the most prospective areas for increased domestic energy supply, while proposing lease sales on tracts of land with low oil potential.

‚??This is supposed to be used for energy production, they shouldn‚??t be treating it as a wilderness area,‚?Ě said Dan Kish, senior vice president of policy for the Institute of Energy Research.

Obama has effectively blocked oil production on federally controlled property including the Outer Continental Shelf, ANWR, and onshore drilling in the lower 48 states, Kish said.

As the price of gas continues to rise, one option for consumer relief being considered by President Barack Obama is the release of oil from the country‚??s emergency supply of 700 million barrels in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

‚??Rather than allowing Americans to go to work and increase the supply of oil, Obama would rather take it from the bank,‚?Ě Kish said. ‚??He‚??s like a rich kid who won‚??t get a job because he has a trust fund, a bank account he can draw down on.‚?Ě

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Written By

Audrey Hudson is an award-winning investigative journalist whose enterprise reporting has sparked numerous congressional investigations that led to laws signed by Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She won the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi award for Public Service in 2009 for her report on dangerous drug experiments by the federal government on war veterans, which prompted internal investigations and needed reforms within the Veterans Affairs Department. The report also captured first place for investigative reporting by the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a finalist of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences Webby Awards for news and politics. Her breaking stories have been picked up and followed by major news publications and periodicals, including Readers Digest, Washington Monthly, and The Weekly Standard, as well as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Washington Post. With nearly 20 years of experience in Washington as a newspaper reporter and as a Capitol Hill staffer for Western lawmakers, she will now lead Human Events‚?? coverage of energy and environmental issues. A native of Kentucky, Mrs. Hudson has worked inside the Beltway for nearly two decades -- on Capitol Hill as a Senate and House spokeswoman, and most recently at The Washington Times covering Congress, Homeland Security, and the Supreme Court. Audrey‚??s email is AHudson@EaglePub.Co

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