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Begich Pleased With Release of Revised OCS Air Permits

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today offered the following statement regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's release of draft air quality permits for Shell Oil's exploratory drilling operations in Alaska's Arctic waters:

"This isn't a done deal yet, but I'm pleased the EPA is moving these permits forward. These are critical jobs, and with North Slope production continuing to decline, we have to get to work.  I'll continue to look for solutions to make this process work better. Administrator Jackson has testified that these emissions do not pose a human health hazard, and there are billions of dollars and several years of work invested in these projects that will create thousands of jobs in Alaska.

"These permits are the result of six years worth of effort by Shell to obtain valid air permits for exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.  The EPA issued final air permits in March 2010 but the Environmental Appeals Board, a quasi-judicial appeals board within the EPA, remanded those permits back to the EPA for additional work, effectively cancelling the 2010 and 2011 exploratory drilling seasons.

"With short operation seasons and long timelines for development, we need to be actively exploring these leases next summer. Existing containment and capping systems should allow for safe exploration wells to confirm these prospects while we continue to learn more about weather, ice and wildlife to facilitate responsible development over the next 10-15 years."

The draft permits will have a 30-day public comment period and public hearing before becoming final.  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement estimate the Beaufort and Chukchi seas together contain approximately 24 billion barrels of oil and just over 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. 

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