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Sen. Murkowski Urges Interior to Move Quickly to Restore Offshore Leasing Program in Alaska

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today called on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to complete as quickly as possible the environmental impact analysis required by the DC Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals to allow oil and gas leasing off the coast of Alaska to resume.

“As I understand it, Interior started the environmental analysis almost immediately after the court’s initial ruling this spring, which halted the leasing plan,” Murkowski said.  “Given that an analysis requires no new research or field work, I assume it can be completed relatively quickly and I urge the secretary to ensure that this task is completed in a timely manner so we can move forward on a path to energy security.”

The court on Tuesday clarified its April 17 decision vacating and remanding the 2007-2012 outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing program by ruling that it applies only to areas in offshore Alaska.

Murkowski welcomed the court’s decision to lift the suspension of oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico, but urged the secretary to resolve any outstanding issues involving existing and planned lease sales in Alaska’s Beaufort, Chukchi and Bearing seas.

“I’m pleased to see that Secretary Salazar recognizes the importance of offshore oil and gas production to our national security, and the harm uncertainty can cause investment by the industry,” Murkowski said. “I’ve sent the secretary a letter urging him to redo the environmental sensitivity analysis with all haste to get offshore leasing in Alaska back on track.”

The court said the previous administration failed to conduct sufficient scientific and environmental reviews before leasing portions of the Alaska outer continental shelf. Under the ruling, Interior is required to complete a more detailed analysis of the potential environmental impacts of offshore development on the near shore tidal zones in Alaska waters.

“I simply wish to encourage the department to finalize and issue the new analysis as soon as possible to address court concerns and then to proceed with related permit processing so that oil and natural gas leasing, and pre-existing exploration and development work, can resume,” Murkowski said. “While we must fully protect the environment and critical marine mammal habitat, it’s equally important to safeguard our economy and energy security.”

July 30, 2009

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