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Murkowski Welcomes Decision on Alaska’s Offshore Resources

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, released the following statement today in response to the Obama administration's decision on offshore energy exploration:

"Today's announcement is good news for Alaska," Murkowski said. "It should allow Shell to proceed this summer with responsible exploration in the Beaufort Sea, promising jobs for Alaskans and future energy supplies for the nation."

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar called Murkowski this morning to tell her that all existing leases not under congressional moratorium would be honored. The decision means the Department of the Interior (DOI) will resume consideration of Shell's application to drill test wells in the Beaufort Sea in 2011. Consideration of the permit had been stalled by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"I appreciate Secretary Salazar's recognition of the contribution Alaska has to offer and the fact that the situation up north is far different from the Gulf of Mexico in terms of where and how drilling is done," Murkowski said.

Shell Oil paid the federal government $2.5 billion for leases in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2005 and 2006. Since then Shell has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a responsible drilling plan to develop the region's offshore resources without endangering the environment or interfere with local subsistence hunting of Bowhead whales. 

Alaska's Chukchi and Beaufort seas hold an estimated 25 billion barrels of oil and some 104 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the Department of the Interior.

Shell must go through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's permitting process before exploration can begin.

"This isn't a slam dunk, but it's a step in the right direction, at least in Alaska," Murkowski said.

The outlook for offshore development for the rest of the country is less encouraging, Murkowski said. The administration chose to exclude the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific planning areas from the 2012-2017 Five Year offshore exploration plan.

"These areas represent some of the most abundant oil and gas resources available for domestic production in the Lower 48," Murkowski said. "Restricting their development will only further stunt our economic recovery."

"Oil is this country's largest source of energy and it will continue to play a vital role in our energy security for decades to come. The more we can produce domestically, the better it is for our economy, for our national security and for our environment."

"It's time for a rational approach to our nation's energy policy," Murkowski said. "I believe we can have both a thriving economy based, in part, on resource development and a healthy environment. You need look no further than Alaska for a perfect example of that philosophy in practice."

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