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Begich Introduces Comprehensive Arctic Oil Spill Bills

Legislation also provides revenue sharing to Alaska for offshore development

As a leading advocate in the U.S. Senate on Arctic issues and a key player in discussions about a comprehensive national energy plan, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has introduced three bills designed to accommodate safe and responsible oil and natural gas development in the Arctic.

All three bills promote responsible development by initiating comprehensive Arctic oil spill research and planning and requiring transport of oil ashore via pipeline. The third bill also provides Alaska with revenues from offshore development, a provision currently given to states in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Arctic oil and gas development is a necessary part of any comprehensive national energy policy which is needed if we are going to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy,” Begich said. “We need build the necessary infrastructure and do everything possible to prevent oil spills, but we also need to get moving on our oil and gas development to secure economic and national security. And there’s absolutely no reason Alaskans shouldn’t get their fair share of revenues from our OCS development.”

Versions of each bill were introduced in the 111th Congress. The legislation has renewed importance following the recognition by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling that Arctic oil and natural gas development will be a source of energy in the near future.

Begich’s three bills include:

· Responsible Arctic Energy Development Act – Directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Coast Guard and other federal agencies to conduct research to improve oil spill prevention, response, and recovery in the Arctic. The bill also directs the agencies to improve infrastructure related to the safety of navigation, research, and search and rescue operations.

 

· Resources for Oil Spill Research and Prevention Act – Funds Arctic oil spill research and planning efforts by increasing the per barrel contribution to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund by 3 cents a barrel for domestic oil and 7 cents a barrel for imported oil. The proposed increase would raise approximately $300 million annually to assist federal, state and local governments and other institutions conduct oil spill research, planning and prevention efforts.

 

· Alaska Adjacent Zone Safe Oil Transport and Revenue Sharing Act – Secures a share of federal revenues from offshore oil and gas development for the State of Alaska and Alaska’s coastal communities equal to that provided to gulf coast states from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Revenue sharing will provide funding for the State of Alaska, local governments and tribes to mitigate effects of development and provide support for public sector infrastructure required to both develop the resources and respond in terms of emergency. The measure would also require oil produced in the federal waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas to be brought ashore by pipeline, a method that is safer than tanker transport and secures future throughput for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

“Revenue sharing would give the State of Alaska and our communities affected by oil and gas development the same level of financial support given to Gulf Coast communities, a fix that is long overdue,” Begich said. “I look forward to moving these bills along as Congress focuses on the country’s energy future, recognizing Alaska’s important role.”

Begich also said he has concerns about President Obama’s comments in his State of the Union address Tuesday night regarding incentives for domestic energy production. The President referenced “eliminating the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies,” an idea Begich said could hurt Alaska’s oil and gas development and American-owned independent oil and gas companies. Begich said he’ll be seeking more information from the Obama Administration on the details of that recommendation.

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