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Suspension of Arctic Exploratory Drilling Not Sound Science Says Governor


May 28, 2010

(SitNews) - The Obama Administration announced yesterday that consideration of any applications for exploratory drilling in the Arctic has been suspended until 2011. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner held a briefing Thursday to discuss the 6 month moratorium on exploratory deepwater drilling and the implementation of new safety measures for offshore oil and gas drilling.

To improve the safety of oil and gas development in federal waters, provide greater environmental protection and substantially reduce the risk of catastrophic events such as the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on Thursday called for aggressive new operating standards and requirements for offshore energy companies and ordered a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. He also canceled a pending lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico and a proposed lease sale off the coast of Virginia, and suspended proposed exploratory drilling in the Arctic.

Following that announcement, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell expressed great frustration with the Obama administration regarding the "deferment" of Arctic Outer Continental Shelf exploration.

In a prepared statement, Gov. Parnell said, "The decision to suspend drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean is based on fear, not sound science. Alaskans have experienced firsthand the ravages of an oil spill with the Exxon Valdez in 1989. We never want to repeat that experience, and our hearts go out to Gulf Coast residents suffering from the effects of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. On the other hand, Shell's proposed exploration plan in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas has been reviewed extensively."

Gov. Parnell said, "I simply cannot understand how the federal government could approve plans of exploration only five months ago - approvals that were upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ­ but now refuse to take the final step in a long regulatory process and not authorize Shell's permits to drill. Shell's leases should be extended, and they should be able to continue seeking permits from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration."

"This unnecessary delay will have a significant impact on the economy," said Parnell. "Development and production would have immediately created hundreds of jobs, generated revenue for federal, state and local governments, and helped extend the life of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. More importantly, development and production would have provided a domestic source of oil to help meet the nation's energy needs and ease our dependence on foreign sources."

Parnell said, "The operating conditions in the shallow water of the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf are materially different from those encountered in the extreme deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Shell's prevention and response plans meet or exceed the stringent requirements to operate in Alaska."

"Over the past three years the State of Alaska has participated with federal agencies in the review of Shell's proposed Plan of Exploration. Vigorous opposition has led to administrative and court challenges on almost every front. Those challenges were summarily rejected, including a decision from the Ninth Circuit only two weeks ago rejecting the meritless claims of multiple environmental groups and coastal villages," said the Governor.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) also expressed his frustration with the decision. In a prepared statement Begich said, "I am frustrated that this decision by the Obama Administration to halt offshore development for a year will cause more delays and higher costs for domestic oil and gas production to meet the nation's energy needs."

Begich said, "The Gulf of Mexico tragedy has highlighted the need for much stronger oversight and accountability of oil companies working offshore, but Shell has updated its plans at the administration's request and made significant investments to address the concerns raised by the Gulf spill. They make an effective case that we can safely explore for oil and gas this summer in the Arctic."

"Another year of delay costs money and Alaska jobs," said Begich. "The nation also has to export more dollars and import more oil from some unfriendly places, jeopardizing our economic and national security."

"I still believe we can responsibly develop oil and gas resources in the Arctic. Over the next year, I'll work with Senator Murkowski and Secretary Salazar, as well as the Alaska operators, to ensure we're ready to go as soon as possible," said Begich.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) slammed the Administration's decision to halt exploration. In a prepared statement Alaskan Congressman Don Young said, "I am incredibly disappointed in this irrational and careless decision. It is based only in response to the hysteria of interest groups that want to cripple our country. The Administration's decision is not based on substance but on style and on a hope of being deemed effective, even though their actions will have the opposite effect. This emotional decision is the worst economic decision the Administration has made and it is wrong for the country, plain and simple."

"The U.S. imported over 77.8 billion barrels of oil over the last 20 years! This past year alone we imported close to 70% of the oil we consumed. This is money we have sent to foreign countries, many of which are hostile to us, while our own country has been hurting. These oil leases provide jobs and revenue as well as much needed fuel to a country that is currently beholden to foreign countries for its energy needs," said Young.

Young said, "The kind of event that happened in the Gulf, while tragic, is so uncommon; it is akin to an American jetliner crashing. If a plane goes down, we don't stop flying. We figure out what went wrong and correct the problem. Similarly, we don't stop drilling for oil and gas in America. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef, we didn't shut down the Trans Alaska Pipeline. We passed OPA 90 to correct the errors that occurred. We need to figure out what went wrong and fix the problem and not put our economy in further gridlock because of fear mongering from extremists. It's not smart and it's not right."


On the Web:

Salazar Calls for New Safety Measures for Offshore Oil and Gas Operations; Orders Six Month Moratorium on Deepwater Drilling; Cancels Western Gulf and Virginia Lease Sales, Suspends Proposed Arctic Drilling
U.S. Department of Interior
Read the full press release

Listen to U. S. Senator Lisa Murkowski's comments:


Sources of News:

Office of the Governor

Office of U.S. Senator Mark Begich

Office of Congressman Don Young

U. S. Department of Interior


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Ketchikan, Alaska