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April 1, 2004

Alaska to offer waters offshore ANWR for drilling

Saying the State of Alaska will not submit to the dictates of America's extreme environmental community, Alaska Governor Frank H. Murkowski announced he will begin the process of planning oil and gas lease sales in state waters offshore of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. His intention is to have the lease sales included in a state offering by October of this year.

Murkowski cited high energy prices and the nation's increasing hunger for natural gas as good reasons why Alaska needs to move on increased oil and gas development.

"Today I am initiating a leasing program on state lands, offshore in the Arctic, along the coast of ANWR and NPR-A," Murkowski said. "There are about 425 miles of coastline between Barrow and the Canadian border. That's just under two million acres in all.

"Some of the areas, those located off state land near Prudhoe Bay, are already leased and producing oil. These include the Northstar, Point McIntyre and Endicott fields."

With the national energy bill making uncertain progress in Congress, OPEC's continued stranglehold on production, and with anti-development forces in play in the presidential race, said Murkowski, Alaska can no longer allow others to hold hostage the time at which Alaska will move its resources to market to benefit the nation. The governor said his plan allows the state to exercise its sovereign authority for offshore development, just as Texas and Louisiana are doing today.

"The new areas to be offered for lease, exploration, and development are 670,000 acres of land off the coast of the NPR-A and more than 350,000 acres off the coast of ANWR.

"Toward that end, I have directed my Commissioner of Natural Resources, Tom Irwin, to open an immediate dialog with the residents of the North Slope. While the U.S. House and Senate remain grid-locked over opening ANWR for oil development, I am not burdened with that process.

"Residents of Alaska and the North Slope are unified in their support for the opening of ANWR. Initial contacts with officials of the North Slope have been made. It would be my intention to include the state offshore ANWR tracts in our October 2004 Beaufort Sea Area Wide lease sale.

"America should not be held hostage by Middle-East oil imports. Motorists should not have to pay more than $2 for a gallon of gasoline. Alaska oil, Alaska natural gas, can help balance the equation."

The governor noted estimates that the 1002 area could produce up to 1.6 million barrels of oil per day. While there is no guarantee that amount is recoverable, directional drilling from state leases off-shore could help delineate onshore deposits, could identify deposits that collectively might justify investment in onshore pipelines, and could even discover more oil than is ever found onshore

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