Developing Alaska's Energy Resources

Actions Needed To Stimulate Research and Improve Wetlands Permit Processing Gao ID: EMD-82-44 June 17, 1982

To determine if federal agencies are advancing environmentally sound approaches to energy exploration and development, GAO evaluated: (1) the results of oil- and gas-related experience on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the only federal land in Alaska where significant production has occurred; (2) the measures used in Alaska to prohibit exploratory drilling during certain months of the year and to control drilling waste disposal; (3) the adequacy of research to lessen the impacts of energy development; and (4) wetlands permitting, which is of crucial importance to energy development on all Alaskan lands.

Additional research is needed to evaluate the impacts of oil- and gas-related activity in Alaska as a basis for promoting environmentally sound approaches to future development without unnecessarily increasing its cost. GAO found that two costly and controversial restrictions are being widely applied to energy exploration in the Arctic; however, there has not been adequate research to support either the imposition or the removal of these restrictions. Use of site-specific research findings would allow refinement of environmental protection controls suitable to the unique characteristics of the lands on which they are applied, and this would minimize universal or blanket stipulations where they are not necessary. The Army Corps of Engineers has been slow in processing wetlands permits, which are required for many oil and gas projects in Alaska, and has frequently included controversial and costly conditions in its permits without requiring substantiation of their need through research findings and site-specific data.


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