WASHINGTON Dec 19 (Reuters) - The federal government on Wednesday announced plans to develop petroleum reserves on part of Alaska's North Slope, with the 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve to be divided between areas available for oil leases and those that are protected from development for now.
The announcement by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar followed the completion of an environmental impact study, which recommended development of about 72 percent of the estimated "economically recoverable" oil in the reserve.
The move drew criticism from Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who contended the Obama administration had not gone far enough to open up oil and natural gas resources in the area.
Salazar said the plan as conceived would allow for the potential construction of pipelines carrying oil or gas from operations in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas through the NPR region.
The areas where oil and gas development will not be allowed include "the vital subsistence resources of Alaska Natives and the habitat of world-class wildlife populations," the Interior Department said.