Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The Obama Administration announced today that deepwater offshore drilling can resume in the Gulf of Mexico – but the decision doesn’t affect Alaska, where shallow water drilling is on hold.
Reaction to the news that the White House is lifting the deepwater moratorium was mixed, with environmentalists calling the move premature in the wake of this year’s Gulf of Mexico BP blowout, which was the largest oil spill in U.S. history. On the other side drilling advocates say the decision lacks teeth, because of uncertainty in how soon production can go forward.
Alaska’s two Senators both say they want to see Arctic Ocean projects advance. They were temporarily delayed in the wake of the Gulf spill.
Democratic Senator Mark Begich called Salazar’s announcement “positive” for the oil and gas industry, but said he’s “frustrated” that Alaska was left out of Tuesday’s decision. Senator Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Energy Committee, said the equivalent of a ‘de-facto moratorium’ still exists in Alaska. Her spokesman Robert Dillon says they believe the shallow type of drilling sought in Alaska should not be on hold.
Tuesday, Secretary Salazar said that his Department must be aggressive in raising the bar for the oil and gas industry’s safety and environmental practices. His press secretary Kendra Barkoff has this to say.
Salazar visited Alaska last month to for a town-hall meeting in Barrow and to tour the North Slope oil fields. He has said he would have to let Shell Oil Company, which wants to drill in the Beaufort Sea, know by early next year if it can move forward, because the company would need to get ready for the summer season. Critics of drilling in the Arctic say not enough research exists about cleaning up oil in icy waters, and fear harming Alaska Native communities’ subsistence harvests like whales. Proponents say it could bring in money, and oil and gas that could help America be less dependent on foreign oil.
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