Oil and Gas Exploration of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska

EMD-80-111: Published: Aug 29, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 29, 1980.

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GAO presented its reasons for believing that a leasing program is the best approach to developing potential oil and gas resources in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPRA) and its reasons for encouraging early action by Congress on proposed legislation to accomplish this. In 1978 GAO, expressed concern that exploration activity might be brought to a conclusion and a decision made on the future use of NPRA without a true assessment of its oil and gas potential. Therefore, it urged the Department of the Interior to develop an overall plan, setting forth the status of the exploration program and its best estimate of the amount of additional exploration required to complete an assessment of oil and gas potential which would be sufficiently reliable for Congress to use in deciding how to proceed on the program. It has been suggested that consideration be given to leasing out the reserve for exploration by private industry. Several bills to do this have been held up in committees or have become overshadowed by the Alaskan lands bill.

Early action and early leasing could save Federal money and possibly make more domestic oil and gas available sooner, helping to reduce the Nation's dependence on imports. Delay in authorizing leasing may spur action to continue a costly and marginally-effective Federal exploration program at costs up to or exceeding $150 million a year, as an alternative to leaving NPRA in an unexplored and undeveloped state.

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