Senator Lisa Murkowski attended a presentation in Anchorage today, put on by Shell Oil officials to discuss the company’s 2012 exploration and oil spill prevention and response plans. The company is hoping to drill several wells in the Arctic Ocean next summer.
Murkowski voiced her concerns about possible loss of funding to offshore oversight organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement. The Appropriations committee released a proposed funding bill Wednesday that makes significant cuts to both agencies.
“I need the EPA to work. I need the federal agencies to work. We need BOEMRE to work and do their job, and in order for them to do their job, we need to make sure that they have the tools, the people, the budget. So it’s this balancing act that we’re involved with right now.”
Senator Murkowski is critical about the efficiency of the permitting process. She says it’s much faster to obtain air-pollution permits in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s due, in part, to cooperation between the industry and oversight organizations like BOEMRE. She says the system is different in Alaska.
“It isn’t designed to help facilitate the level of permitting for offshore that we have seen for three or four decades now in the Gulf. So I’m looking at this and saying ‘why does this have to be, why are we reinventing the wheel in Alaska?'”
Environmental groups have been critical that the federal government is moving too quickly in the process toward allowing offshore drilling in Alaska. They’re concerned not enough is known about cleaning up large oil spills in arctic waters.