Bureau of Land Management announces availability of Environmental Assessment for seismic exploration of Coastal Plain

Overview of previous seismic activity taken in August 2017
Overview of seismic activity in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska taken in August 2017.

ANCHORAGE – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released today the environmental assessment of the application from Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation to conduct seismic exploration within the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The environmental assessment and draft finding of no new significant impact are available to review for 14 days and can be viewed at https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2003258/510.

The 3D seismic survey program is proposed to take place this winter season 2020/2021 and encompass approximately 350,000 acres of private Alaska Native Corporation and federally managed public lands along the Coastal Plain.

“We’ve received a tremendous amount of input from our federal, state and tribal partners in the development of this environmental assessment,” said BLM Alaska State Director Chad Padgett. “It’s important that we are responsive to our community’s needs while providing a responsible path forward for economic opportunities for our North Slope communities.”

Public scoping for the application and plan of operations resulted in more than 100,000 comment submissions. The analysis considers all substantive comments received.

The Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation proposes to use special trucks designed for seismic activities along the North Slope.
The Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation proposes to use special vibroseis trucks designed
for seismic activities along the North Slope.

Seismic exploration is the search for commercially economic subsurface deposits of crude oil and natural gas by recording, processing, and interpreting artificial seismic energy generated by vibroseis techniques. Seismic exploration is a minimally invasive means to discover potential areas with hydrocarbon resources to better inform future leaseholders and potential oil and gas development.

“Modern seismic techniques in the Arctic are well understood and have evolved to include technologies and practices that minimize impacts” said BLM Arctic District Manager Shelly Jones. “These techniques continue to be successfully used in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, an environment similar to the Coastal Plain, with no significant impacts, including to wildlife, subsistence or vegetation.”

In the past 12 years, seismic exploration has occurred in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska and the Cook Inlet, including lands within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. That exploration was analyzed through Environmental Assessments, which determined there would only be minimal impacts.  

Section 20001 of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 directed the Secretary of the Interior, through the BLM, to establish and administer a competitive program for the leasing, development, production, and transportation of oil and gas in and from the Coastal Plain. The Act also directed BLM to issue any rights of way across the Coastal Plain for exploration, development, and/or production, including seismic exploration activities.

This year, we invite everyone to reimagine your public lands as we celebrate 75 years of the BLM’s stewardship and service to the American people. The BLM manages approximately 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. 

Release Date


Bureau of Land Management


Arctic District Office


Lesli Ellis-Wouters