Murkowski: Pace of Offshore Permitting Remains Priority

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, commented on the Interior Department’s issuance yesterday of the first deepwater oil drilling permit since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill:

“Yesterday’s announcement is the first step to putting us back into the race for greater energy security and economic recovery,” Murkowski said. “While this approval for a bypass well isn’t the new exploration we need to see, this does put the administration closer to compliance with the law as directed by Congress and the courts.”

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is scheduled to appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday to review the agency’s 2012 budget proposal. DOI is seeking a 50 percent increase in its budget for its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) compared to fiscal year 2010 levels.

Murkowski, the ranking Republican on both the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, said she remains concerned with the slow pace of permitting for deepwater wells.

“The deepwater moratoria was lifted back in October and yet it’s taken nearly five months to approve the first well permit. DOI now has about two weeks to issue four more permits if it’s to comply with the court’s order,” Murkowski said. “DOI clearly needs to step up its game in order to approve projects in a timely and responsible manner.”