Approval of Spill Response Plan Moves Shell Closer to Exploration

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today congratulated the Obama administration for its approval of Shell’s spill response plan for Alaska’s Beaufort Sea.

“Today’s approval by Interior marks one of the last major hurdles that Shell must overcome to explore for oil in Alaska’s northern waters this summer,” Murkowski said. “This is good news for Alaska and the nation, which needs the energy, jobs and economic activity responsible exploration and, ultimately, production will bring. This is the type of decision that will improve America’s long-term energy security.”

Shell plans to drill exploratory wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas this summer. Interior approved Shell’s plans for the Chukchi Sea last month. The agency’s approval of the two plans shows that Shell has put together a robust and comprehensive strategy to safeguard the Arctic environment, Murkowski said.

Wednesday’s announcement means Shell can now apply for its final license to drill from Interior. However, Shell is also waiting on the Environmental Protection Agency’s appeals board to issue a final decision on an air permit approval for its drill ship the Kulluk, and cannot begin work this summer until that decision is issued.

As the top Republican on both the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Murkowski has consistently used her legislative and budgetary authority over the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency to advocate for expanding responsible energy development on Alaska’s outer continental shelf.

“Alaska’s offshore resources represent one of our greatest opportunities to get America’s economy moving again,” Murkowski said. “As the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard has testified, the homework is done and we are ready and waiting to move forward with safe and responsible exploration of our huge energy resources.”

The Arctic waters off Alaska’s northern coast contain some 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to federal estimates.