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Begich Comments on Deepwater Horizon Commission Report


Recommendations point way for safe development in the Arctic

U.S. Sen.  Mark Begich commented on the report of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling and its recommendations intended to improve oilfield safety and strengthen protection from and response to future spills.  He specifically cited the Commission’s recommendations on moving forward on Arctic energy development and was pleased the Commission found a moratorium on development in the Arctic is not justified. Many of the recommendations in the report are similar to those Begich has previously addressed in legislation.

“I commend the ground-breaking work of this national Commission, which I hope will lead to the increased safe development of America’s domestic oil and gas resources including those in the Arctic,” Begich said.  “Producing the enormous energy resources available within our borders is vital for our economic and national security, but we must develop these resources in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.”

The Commission’s report on the blowout which claimed the lives of 11 workers, and spill which took months to contain, includes dozens of recommendations that are both far-reaching and specific.  They include creating a new culture of safety within the oil industry, reforming federal regulation and oversight, strengthening financial responsibility requirements for offshore development, and greater citizen involvement in spill contingency and response planning.

“The recommendations issued by the Commission warrant close scrutiny by Congress and the public. I believe they show the way for more rigorous operating procedures to ensure such a devastating blowout doesn’t happen again and a more robust national response to spills if and when they do occur,” Begich said. “I especially welcome the recommendations for stronger financial guarantees so taxpayers are not on the hook for future spills and the damage they cause.  I proposed legislation along those lines last year and will redouble my efforts to pass it this year.”

Begich also took note of the Commission’s recommendations regarding future Arctic oil exploration and development, many of which mirror legislation he has introduced.  The Commission noted opportunities for energy development in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas and challenges of operating in the harsh environment and unique marine ecosystem upon which residents of the region depend for subsistence. The Commission calls for a comprehensive plan of research into the Arctic environment and spill response techniques funded through the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, and cites the need for additional investment in Coast Guard capabilities in the region, including icebreakers.  The report recommends containment and response plans that are adequate for each stage of exploration and the development of international standards for Arctic energy infrastructure.  The report also says an Arctic Regional Citizen’s Council would help ensure the active participation of people who understand the unique Arctic the best.  Begich called for many of these in his “Inuvikput” package of legislation, introduced in 2009, and other bills which he plans to reintroduce in the 112th Congress.

“As America’s only Arctic state, the Commission’s recommendations about development in the Arctic are of critical interest to Alaskans,” Begich said.  “As many of us have been saying for years, more resources and research are needed for Arctic development as warming temperatures make far north resources more accessible. That must include more Coast Guard facilities and equipment, research into dealing with oil spills in Arctic waters and sea ice, and a greater voice for local residents in development that may affect them.”

Begich noted the contributions of many Alaskans to the final report.

“I especially thank University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Fran Ulmer for her leadership on this Commission and for reminding the Commission members of Alaska’s key role in meeting our nation’s energy needs,” Begich said.

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