Murkowski: Alaska, Nation Must Have Safe Oil Production

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, released the following statement today regarding the Obama administration's decision to impose a one-year delay on exploration in Alaska's Chukchi and Beaufort seas:

"All of us are committed to protecting Alaska's waters. I'm also committed to protecting Alaska's economy," Murkowski said. "If the delay is for a season to ensure we have the highest levels of protection in place, that's one thing. But if it means that existing permits are allowed to lapse - effectively killing Shell's participation in Alaska - that's not acceptable to me or Alaska."

Murkowski, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, spoke to Shell President Marvin Odum last night and was reassured that Shell wants to continue to responsibly develop Alaska's offshore resources, but understandably needs a firm commitment from the administration that the delay will not go beyond next spring.

"We need to be able to tell Shell that this one-year delay isn't in reality a life sentence," Murkowski said. "Otherwise this decision puts Shell's entire Alaska program at risk."

Murkowski plans to meet with administration officials today. The administration needs to provide assurances to Shell and other companies with interests in Alaska's outer continental shelf that this temporary time-out doesn't become permanent, Murkowski said.

"Shell has a proven safety record around the globe and they have made every possible effort to work closely with the state and residents of the North Slope to ensure the safety of their exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort," Murkowski said.

The administration must commit to extending Shell's environmental permits and lease terms during this delay to provide the company some level of certainty that it will be able to resume operations next spring. Due to the time it takes to mobilize its operations in the Alaska's northern waters, Shell will need to make a final decision to go ahead by next spring.

"I will continue to work with Shell and the administration to ensure exploration can move forward safely as soon as possible," Murkowski said. "The tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico reminds us that there is always some risk in developing our energy resources, but we cannot simply ignore our need for oil and gas."

Shell paid the federal government $2.5 billion for leases in Alaska's Chukchi and Beaufort seas in 2005 and 2006. The company is already halfway through its 10 year lease in the Beaufort and has still not been allowed to explore its holdings.

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