Murkowski: Administration at Fault for Second Oil Company’s Decision to Abandon Arctic

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today issued the following statement in response to the announcement by Norway’s Statoil that it is ending its Alaska operations and giving back the leases in Alaska’s Arctic offshore frontier that the company had won in 2008:

“I am very concerned that, for the second time in as many months, a major company has decided to walk away from Alaska because of the uncertainty surrounding our federal government’s support for Arctic development,” Murkowski said. “Low oil prices may have contributed to Statoil’s decision, but the real project killer was this administration’s refusal to grant lease extensions; its imposition of a complicated, drawn-out, and ever-changing regulatory process; and its cancellation of future lease sales that have stifled energy production in Alaska. These actions threaten to undermine Alaska’s economy, our security, and our environment.”

Statoil’s divestment of its 16 leases in the Chukchi Sea comes without the company drilling a single exploratory well in the region.

The northern waters off Alaska’s Arctic coastline holds an estimated 24 billion barrels of oil and 104 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to federal estimates. Statoil’s Chukchi leases are located roughly 40 miles north of Shell’s Burger prospect.

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, is pushing to end the federal government’s overreaching regulations, which are hurting Alaskans across the state.

“It is absurd that Interior has created a regulatory environment where operators cannot have commercially viable exploration programs, because so many requirements and hurdles have been put in place,” Murkowski has previously said.

In July, Murkowski advanced the Offshore Production and Energizing National Security (OPENS) Act to ensure Alaskans receive a fair share of the revenue from development in the federal waters off its shores. Murkowski has included language in the legislation that would require the federal government to offer annual leases sales in Alaska’s offshore, including in the near-shore Beaufort Sea, where the state is already eligible for revenue sharing.