Murkowski, Sullivan Continue to Press for Fair Process, Timely Re-Approval of Ambler Access Project
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (both R-Alaska) sent a new letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland reiterating their strong support for the Ambler Access Project (Ambler Road). The Senators’ letter, in response to the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) recent request for public input as it scopes a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the project, urges DOI to limit its analysis to court-identified issues and to quickly complete the SEIS so development of this vital road link can finally begin.
From the Senators’ letter:
“Given the delays to date and the strategic importance of the Project, it is essential that DOI limit the scope of its additional analysis to the two specific deficiencies that BLM identified to the Court. BLM states in its notice of intent published on September 20, 2022, however, that it is seeking comments ‘concerning the scope of the analysis, potential alternatives, and identification of relevant information, and studies.’ It would be inappropriate and a waste of taxpayer resources for the scope of the analysis to go beyond what the BLM identified to the Court in its request for a voluntary remand. Further setbacks for this Project will ultimately benefit no one, while directly undermining the administration’s own policy goals.”
To read the full letter, click here.
The Ambler Road is needed to provide access to the world-class Ambler Mining District and facilitate the responsible development of high-grade mineral deposits—including copper, cobalt, zinc, silver, gold, and other metals—located within it. In addition to good jobs and economic diversification for Alaska, the Ambler District will serve as a domestic source of key strategic minerals and metals at the outset of an era where global demand for them is projected to soar.
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980 guarantees a right-of-way across federal land to ensure the Ambler Road can be constructed. Only a small part of the road’s route crosses federal land, but in recent years, DOI has ignored the law to use that as a mechanism to repeatedly delay this important project.
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) submitted its application to develop the 211-mile road project in November 2015. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published a draft EIS on August 30, 2019 and held 22 public meetings in local communities, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Washington, DC. Together with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, BLM issued a favorable Record of Decision (ROD) for the project in July 2020.
Despite extensive public process and years of exhaustive environmental review, the Biden administration was granted Court approval for a voluntary remand of the Environmental Impact Statement and suspended the right of way for the project on February 22, 2022.
In May 2022, the U.S. District Court for Alaska granted the Biden administration’s remand request. BLM requested remand to conduct additional, narrowly-tailored analysis for potential subsistence impacts under Section 810 of ANILCA and consultation with tribes pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
After four months of delay, BLM initiated a 45-day public scoping process for an SEIS on September 20, 2022. BLM’s notice of intent states that the agency will evaluate a “range of alternatives” related to a variety of topics and provides no timeframe for the completion of the review. In their letter, the Senators reiterated to DOI that the project has already been the subject of extensive scoping and emphasized that adding new topics to the SEIS would be directly contrary to the agency’s stated intentions before the court.
This letter supplements Murkowski and Sullivan’s recent call for DOI to promptly complete its work to re-approve the Ambler Road. The Senators urged DOI to commit to a concrete timeline, allow the project proponent to continue important baseline scientific work, and allow geotechnical drilling to proceed; no response has been received to date.