National Petroleum Reserve

The world has come to rely heavily on petroleum since its discovery and many uses have demanded more of this fast depleting fossil energy source occurring naturally in the bowels of the earth. It is extracted in the form of both crude oil and natural gas that are principally a mixture of hydrocarbons.

The National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A) is in an area of land located in the Alaska North Slope which is owned by the federal government of the United States of America. Its location is west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This is a 23.5 million acres (95,000 km?), federal land on the North Slope and is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-managed National Wildlife Refuge, described as "the largest tract of undisturbed public land in the United States" (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is 19 million acres (77,000 km?)) and includes a point that is 120 miles (190 km) from the closest village or motor able road. Around its perimeter, the Inupiat Eskimos live in several villages, the largest of which is Barrow, the seat of North Slope Borough.

The Reserve was created in 1923 as Naval Petroleum Reserve Number 4 by President Warren G. Harding during a time when the United States' Navy was changing over to run on oil rather than on coal. In 1976 the reserve was renamed the "National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska" by the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act and it was transferred to the Department of the Interior. The 1980 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was directed to conduct oil and gas leasing by the Interior Department Appropriations Act within the Department of Interior. However, until the late 1990s, the area was in actual fact left as a wilderness.

The reserve was divided into three planning areas: the Northeast with 4,600,000 acres (18,600 km2) of public land, the Northwest with 8,800,000 acres (35,600 km2) of public land, and the South with 9,200,000 acres (37,200 km2) of public land by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). After BLM had gone a through planning process for the Northeast area, in 1998, the Secretary of Interior signed a Record of Decision (ROD), opening up 87 percent to leasing of this area to oil and gas. Almost 1,500,000 acres (6,100 km2) in the Northeast has since been leased. In 2004, a ROD was signed for the Northwest area. 2,300,000 acres (9,300 km2) were leased in this area alone. Planning process for the South took place in 2005, but BLM in the summer of 2007 discontinued it as residents were concerned of the pollution and environmental damage, that the extraction of oil and gas would cause to harm the resources needed for their subsistence.

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