Murkowski slams denial of Conoco NPRA permit

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today reacted to the Obama administration's denial of Conoco Phillips' permit to construct a bridge to access what would have been the first oil and gas lease in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve (NPRA), insisting the company instead use directional drilling for the development.

For decades, those who oppose developing ANWR or Alaska's offshore fields have continually cited the 23 million-acre NPRA as the area where development should occur instead. If a producer cannot get across the Colville River, however, NPRA's resources are effectively off-limits.

"I am alarmed and amazed by this short-sighted decision, which totally ignores the economics of future energy development in all of northern Alaska," Murkowski said. "Directional drilling can work in ANWR because the oil is concentrated in the northwest corner. That is an entirely different situation than the vast and widely distributed deposits in the NPRA, however, and the administration knows it."

While the one oil deposit that Conoco is trying to access may be within reach of directional drilling, the known deposits that are next in line for development are more than 10 miles away from existing infrastructure and far outside of the technological scope of extended reach drilling. The bridge and the related pipelines are essential for additional oil and gas development from the petroleum reserve.

"If allowed to stand, this myopic decision will kill all future oil development from the nation's largest designated petroleum reserve and probably stop all future natural gas production from the area as well," Murkowski said. "The loss of energy potential is staggering for the nation and it would happen for absolutely no environmentally sound reason."

"America is dangerously reliant on foreign oil. Restricting access to even more of our domestic resources is simply unacceptable," Murkowski said.

Although Conoco Phillips may reapply for the permit, it is clear that they have lost another drilling season because of this regulatory overreach.

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