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Begich Welcomes Positive Decision from EPA for Shell Chukchi Exploration Air Permit

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) on Jan. 7 welcomed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed approval of Shell Offshore Inc's air quality permit for exploration of lease blocks in the Chukchi Sea from Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lease Sale 193. The EPA is announcing a proposal to approve a "major" source air permit that requires operations to meet the Prevention of Significant Deterioration program standards.

"Alaska has long been America's energy storehouse and a green light on this Shell development means Alaska's energy will continue to help fuel our nation's factories and automobiles," Begich said. "It has become increasingly clear that energy policy is national security policy, and the U.S. needs to focus more on production of our rich energy resources right here at home. Let's stop paying billions a year to hostile countries and start putting Alaskans to work."

Shell made changes to their proposed exploration program submitted in August based on informal comments to date. Pending issuance of a final permit approval after the public comment ending February 17 and any subsequent administrative appeals to the Environmental Appeals Board, this is the final administrative step to allow oil and gas exploration on these Chukchi leases in Summer 2010.

The EPA has also tentatively scheduled a public hearing for February 16 in Barrow with teleconference participation available in Wainwright, Point Lay, Point Hope and Atqasuk.

"After several discussions with administration officials including Administrator Lisa Jackson in December, I am pleased to learn that the process continues to move forward," Begich stated. "I want to thank Administrator Jackson for her agency's timely decision and their willingness to hold a public hearing in Barrow about this matter."

In August,  Sen. Begich introduced his "Inuvikput package" of seven bills. 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. 

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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