WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following the decision today by President George Bush to lift the Presidential moratorium that has stopped all energy leasing from even being considered in the waters of the North Aleutian Shelf near Bristol Bay in recent years, Senator Lisa Murkowski urged Alaskans to continue to express their views on the merits and dangers of Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing in Alaska waters. The lifting of the moratorium, on top of the lifting of a companion congressional moratorium in 2004, still does not clear the way for any energy leasing in the area. The area still has to be proposed for leasing in a revised five-year oil and gas leasing plan, which is still under review. Two environmental impact studies and reviews must take place before leasing can be conducted – a process that will take several more years to complete. “This is not the end of the public process, but rather the start of a dialogue that could lead to important energy development in our state,” said Senator Murkowski. “It is vital for Alaskans to express their views on the upcoming Environmental Impact Statement regarding the five-year schedule, as well as take advantage of future public comment periods.” “I spoke with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne about the environmental sensitivities of Bristol Bay and its world-leading sockeye salmon runs,” continued Murkowski. “During those conversations, I received an assurance from the Secretary that if leasing is ultimately proposed for the waters, that it will only be conducted with stringent environmental safeguards to protect not just salmon, but also any crab, cod, Pollock and whales, marine mammals and birdlife that live and pass through the Bristol Bay region waters.” The lifting of the moratorium was taken in response to the formal request of the State of Alaska and the request of a number of bay residents who wish to benefit from the economic impacts that energy development might produce in the region. Senator Murkowski has been assured by experts that the region is most likely to be a major natural gas province, not an area of crude oil production – a fact that mitigates potential environmental concerns with energy development.