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Feds hope new report will lead to Arctic drilling

Interior Department releases study detailing how exploration would affect caribou, birds in oil reserve

Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Under orders from a federal judge, the Interior Department on Monday released a revised report of how oil and gas exploration would affect one of the most important habitats for calving caribou and migratory birds in northern Alaska.

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The department hopes the updated report will help put it back on track to lease 400,000 acres around Teshekpuk Lake in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to oil and gas companies eager to expand operations on the fuel-rich North Slope.

"This sets the stage for determining future actions," said Sharon Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management in Anchorage.

The report by the Bureau of Land Management contains broader descriptions than before of wildlife, industry and Alaska Native communities in the region, but makes few concrete appraisals about how drilling would affect the area.

"We pretty much just paint a picture of how things are right now and come to no conclusions," Wilson said. "This report is not going to give you any predictions. We are really looking for input from the public."

The document includes a new section on polar bears, which live in the petroleum reserve and are under consideration for addition to the Endangered Species List.

The lake sits above an estimated 2 billion barrels of recoverable oil, but previous administrations have left it untouched because of its environmental sensitivity.

Judge James K. Singleton of U.S. District Court in Anchorage had halted the sales last year in the lawsuit. Singleton ruled that the government's environmental impact statement for the long-protected area was too narrow in scope.



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