Image above: Legacy well site located in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska..
Photo Credit: Jessica Starsman.
Various Alaska State agencies have been involved with the investigation of the 136 legacy wells within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and surrounding lands. These wells were drilled between 1944 and 1981 by different federal agencies to explore the oil reserve potential of the land. Today the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska is under the control of the Bureau of Land Management. As a result of past drilling operations, many legacy well sites have historic reserve pits, flare pits, tundra damage, solid waste, and potential residual contamination. Due to the remote location of the wells, information for the well sites is limited and the cleanup of these sites has been an evolving process. The Bureau of Land Management began analyzing the sites independently, releasing preliminary studies describing past cleanup activities and surface and subsurface risk assessments. State of Alaska agencies reviewed and commented on these assessments. Based on the level of concern raised by both State of Alaska agencies and the state legislature, the Bureau of Land Management, with assistance from the federal government, has changed their approach to the management of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska legacy wells and accepts the State of Alaska as a partner.