Murkowski Welcomes Fish & Wildlife Service Polar Bear Proposed ITRs

Updated Regulations Critical to Ongoing Oil and Gas Development Operations on the North Slope

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently published proposed marine mammal Incidental Take Regulations (ITR), commonly known as the Polar Bear ITRs, in the Federal Register for public comment. These proposed regulations come after Senator Murkowski repeatedly pressed Department of the Interior officials and nominees on the urgency and importance of these regulations being updated and issued as the last ITRs expire in August of this year.

On May 18 during a nomination hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Murkowski secured a commitment from Shannon Estenoz, the current principal deputy and nominee to be Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, to publish a proposed ITR by June 1 and final regulations by August. Murkowski worked alongside industry, government, state, and local partners to ensure that the updated ITRs were a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This update is critical to the ongoing operations of oil and gas development on Alaska’s North Slope.

“These regulations, if adopted, would make it possible for oil and gas development to continue on the North Slope for the foreseeable future. I thank the Fish and Wildlife Service, and in particular their career staff and technical experts, for their dedication to working through this issue,” said Senator Murkowski. “I look forward to ensuring that a robust public comment period is carried out, and that the August deadline to adopt the new regulations is met.”

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972, the “take” – that is, to harass, hunt, capture, kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill – of marine mammals is generally prohibited. Limited exceptions are provided for, and can be requested by U.S. citizens in the form of Incidental Take Regulations or Incidental Harassment Authorizations, for five years and one year respectively. The proposed updated ITRs would allow the incidental, but not intentional, nonlethal take of marine mammals resulting from oil and gas exploration, development, production, and transportation over the next five years.