The United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed oil and gas leasing in the Northeast National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska (NPR-A), and completed an environmental impact statement (EIS) to evaluate this proposal. The North Slope Borough, the regional government, has generally supported oil and gas development in the region; however, the borough expressed strong concerns about this proposal because of the Northeast NPR-A region's importance to the traditions and food supply of neighboring Alaska Native communities. The community had contemplated litigation to stop BLM's leasing plan, but ultimately the borough became a cooperating agency to represent the interests of local residents and contributed to an in-depth HIA to inform the BLM's decision-making process. The HIA highlighted a number of potential health risks and benefits of the proposed leasing, including: 1) impacts on the local diet (heavily dependent on locally-harvested wild fish and game) and rates of obesity and diabetes; 2) exposure to pollution from any major emissions sources nearby or through ingestion of contaminated fish and game if pollution were to enter the food chain; 3) social problems, such as illicit drug and alcohol importation by non-resident workers coming to the region; and 4) the use of oil and gas revenues to support local services important to health, such as public safety, fire and medical emergency response.
The HIA made a number of recommendations, and BLM considered these as potential mitigation measures. Ultimately, the BLM adopted some additional protections for key hunting and fishing areas; measures to minimize disruption of local game, such as elevating the height of new pipelines to allow free caribou migration; cultural orientation for workers; and a requirement for a more in-depth and site-specific consideration of health impacts for any major oil development on leased lands in the future. Ultimately, there was no litigation on this EIS.
Please also see the Page Guide to Public Health Subsections In the Northeast NPR-A Final SEIS