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Begich Welcomes Approval of Chukchi Exploration Plan


U.S. Sen. Mark Begich on Dec. 7 welcomed approval by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) of Shell Inc.'s exploration plan for oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea.

"This is another positive step for Alaska's oil and gas industry.  While challenges remain, approval of this exploration plan demonstrates Alaska will continue to play an important role in helping meet America's energy needs."

Approval of the exploration plan is a major hurdle in the exploration process. Shell still needs to obtain air permits from the Environmental Protection Agency and other administrative approvals before it can drill exploratory wells, currently planned for next summer.

"I will continue to work with Interior Secretary Salazar to include protections that address concerns Alaskans and the rest of the nation have to develop these resources in a responsible manner," Begich said.  "The successful development of these reserves and those of the Beaufort Sea are key to the long term viability of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the future of the Alaska natural gas pipeline."

In August, Begich introduced his "Inuvikput package" of seven bills dealing with the changing Arctic.  Legislation in that package addresses revenue sharing, increasing scientific knowledge of the Alaska OCS, improves oil spill response and recovery, and calls for an increased Coast Guard presence in the Arctic Ocean and Alaska OCS. 

Begich has met with Administration officials, including Sec. Salazar, several times to push ahead on responsible offshore development. He also accompanied Salazar on his trip to Anchorage and Dillingham in April to meet with Alaskans about offshore development.

Held in February 2008, Lease Sale 193 generated more than $2.6 billion in lease sales in the Chukchi Sea.  It was the first least sale in the Chukchi Sea in over 15 years.  The MMS estimates that the Chukchi Sea contains mean technically recoverable reserves of 15 billion barrels of oil and 77 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
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