Oil and Gas Leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): The 2,000-Acre Limit

Publication Date: February 2006

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Energy; Environment


Coverage: Alaska


Congress is again considering whether to permit drilling for oil and gas on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska, or to maintain the current statutory prohibition on oil and gas development in the Refuge. The 109th Congress has considered the issue in authorizing bills, budget reconciliation bills, and an appropriation bill, but legislation opening the Refuge has not yet passed both chambers. Several measures would have limited the surface area that could be covered by certain oil production and support facilities to 2,000 acres of the 1.5 million acres of the Coastal Plain. These provisions raise several issues: they may not apply to some or all of the nearly 100,000 acres held by Native Americans in the Refuge that could be developed if the federal lands are opened to oil and gas development; and exactly what facilities would be subject to the limitation is not clear, although the limitation could constrain development if oil and gas discoveries are widespread. This report discusses both legal and technical aspects of the 2,000-acre limit and will be updated as circumstances warrant.