Murkowski: Safety Overhaul Should Spur, Not Impede Offshore Energy Production

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today stressed the importance of advancing safety and production legislation concurrently through the Senate. Murkowski, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, made her comments during a hearing of that committee on offshore safety.

“Our goal should be to ensure our offshore industry is working safely, but that requires that it be working,” Murkowski said. “I believe safety legislation is appropriate, but such legislation should do just that – improve safety. We must resist attempts to go beyond safety with measures that unduly restrict responsible development and deter investment.”

Murkowski pointed out that Alaskan offshore projects have been delayed a minimum of two additional years, domestic oil development from the Gulf of Mexico is still at only about a third of what it was before the administration instituted a moratorium and the EIA continues to forecast serious production shortfalls as a result. 

“Our focus should be on legislation that advances safety, production and a fair return of revenue to coastal states simultaneously. I mention those priorities in the same sentence because I believe they can – and must – be part of the same policy.  We need to address them together, and if we do not, then I'm doubtful that it will succeed in reaching the president's desk,” Murkowski said. 

Murkowski supports efforts to strengthen federal oversight of offshore energy projects, but disagrees with proposed measures that would alter the purposes of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act from energy development to a statute focused on environmental protection, a change Murkowski called “unnecessary.”

Offshore operations are already covered by a long list of environmental statutes, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Environmental Protection Agency water and air regulations, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation Act.

Some of the proposed changes in the majority bill go well beyond those requested by Interior Secretary Salazar, Murkowski said.

“We have seen that the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act already does have real teeth,” Murkowski said. “The existing law clearly provided sufficient authority for the administration to impose a moratorium and, even after that, to hold off on issuing drilling permits until there was a much greater degree of comfort with safety and spill prevention systems.”