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Begich Pushes Alaska Oil and Gas Development with Top Obama Officials

Calls for Aggressive OCS Development, Gasline Construction

Oil and gas development off Alaska's coast and construction of an Alaska natural gas pipeline are vital for the nation's energy security and energy supply, Sen. Mark Begich told two of the Obama administration's top energy and environment officials today.

Begich urged approval of outer continental shelf (OCS) leasing in Alaska's Chukchi Sea and said construction of an Alaska gasline project can create more American jobs than any single project on the horizon, at a meeting in his office with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Carol Browner, special assistant to the president at the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change.

"Alaska has long served as this nation's energy storehouse and with responsible oil and gas development off our coast and a gasline, we can create thousands of good-paying American jobs, supply American homes and factories with clean-burning energy and improve our energy security," Begich said following the 50-minute meeting with the officials.

Begich had requested the meeting with Salazar and Browner with a deadline of Friday for Salazar to make a decision about Shell Exploration Alaska's development plans in the Chukchi Sea. Just today, Salazar agreed to Shell's request for two more weeks before issuing his decision so Shell could help respond to hundreds of public comments on the plan. Citing the importance of oil and gas resources of the Chukchi Sea, Begich today joined Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young in a letter urging a swift and positive response from Sec. Salazar. .

Begich forcefully told the two that OCS development in Alaska can be done in an environmentally sound manner and is broadly supported by Alaskans. As the joblessness continues to grow in the U.S., he said Alaska energy development can help kick-start the economy.

On the gasline, Begich told the administration officials that he welcomed the President's personal attention to the project, which can create the equivalent of 6,000 fulltime, year-round jobs while supplying the nation a safe and environmentally friendly source of energy for decades.

President Obama this week announced plans to bring in a new federal gas pipeline coordinator, and Salazar said the administration is supportive of other initiatives to help make the $30 billion project a reality.

Begich also asked for Salazar's assistance in solving a long-standing problem delaying development of oil and gas leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. For four years, ConocoPhillips has been seeking a bridge and pipeline crossing over the Colville River to connect NPRA development with existing infrastructure at the Alpine Field. But federal agencies in Salazar's department suffering from tight budgets have been unable to undertake the planning necessary to move forward. As a result, ConocoPhillips already has missed its internal deadline for the 2010-11 winter construction.

Begich asked Salazar to look into the issue so Alaska oil and gas companies can continue responsible North Slope development.

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