Sens. Murkowski and Begich Welcome New Plan for Federal Waters

President’s Offshore Plan will Allow Exploration of Existing Chukchi and Beaufort Sea Leases

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich today released the following statement in response to the Obama administration's updated plan for offshore oil and natural gas development.

Sen. Murkowski:

"I appreciate the department's decision to allow valid existing rights to explore Alaska's huge offshore oil and gas reserves to go ahead," Murkowski said. "I will work with the administration on proceeding with important future lease sales off Alaska's coast, as well as along the Atlantic coast and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico."

Sen. Begich:

"Alaska's energy companies should be pleased with the green light from the Obama administration to proceed toward oil and gas development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas under the current lease schedule. As the site of the world's largest salmon fishery, the President's proposal to curtail oil and gas development in Bristol Bay makes sense," Begich said.. "I commend the Obama administration, and especially Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, for reaching out to Alaskans and incorporating our recommendations in today's decision."

Today's announcement validates planned exploratory activity in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, delays four planned sales in the same areas and suspends leasing activity in the North Aleutian Basin. Leaseholders must still acquire the necessary permits from the Environmental Protection Agency before exploration can move forward.

"It's now critical that the EPA finalize long-pending air-quality permits for this summer's exploratory activity in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas," Murkowski said.

The senators urged the administration to continue to fund environmental studies in the North Aleutian Basin so that a more informed decision can be made about possible development in the future.

"As America's long-term energy storehouse, Alaska holds some of North America's largest reserves of oil and natural gas. Responsibly developing these reserves is vital for America's energy independence and security and would be a shot in the arm to our economy when we sorely need it," Begich said. "Although I want to see more details, it appears President Obama has struck a careful balance between environmentally responsible development in Alaska's outer continental shelf and conducting additional science to ensure the OCS's other resources, such as marine mammals, are protected."

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates Alaska's coastal waters hold an estimated 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and nearly 27 billion barrels of oil. The Atlantic coast may hold 37 trillion cubic feet of gas and nearly 4 billion barrels of oil, while the Pacific Coast has 10.5 billion barrels of oil and 18 trillion cubic feet of gas.

"As America benefits from the jobs, the deficit reductions, and the energy security associated with this development, I am confident that more of the outer continental shelf will become available," Murkowski said. "Even as we transform America's energy landscape, we're going to need a lot of oil for many years. For the sake of our nation's economy, our national security, and for the world's environment, the more of that oil we can produce domestically the better."

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