Murkowski: Interior Attempting to Shut Down Arctic Development for Decades

Vows Legislative Pushback in Wake of Latest Anti-Alaska Decision

October 16, 2015
05:30 PM

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today issued the following statement after the Department of the Interior announced its rejection of Shell Alaska’s request to extend its leases off of Alaska’s northern coast and the cancellation of future leases sales in the region.

“This is a stunning, short-sighted move that betrays the Interior Department’s commitments to Alaska and the best interests of our nation’s long-term energy security. Today’s decision is the latest in a destructive pattern of hostility toward energy production in our state that began the first day this administration took office, and continued ever since.   

“Less than a year ago, Interior announced it was locking up millions of acres of the nation’s richest oil and natural gas prospects on the Arctic coastal plain. Interior has also taken more than 11 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska off the table. It has made it nearly impossible for companies to navigate the permitting process, which dramatically limited Shell’s ability to drill to just 163 out of more than 2,800 days. 

“It is absurd that Interior has created a regulatory environment where operators cannot have commercially viable exploration programs, because so many requirements and hurdles have been put in place, and then blames them for not moving forward. There is not a lack of interest in the Arctic – if anything, what we are seeing is a lack of interest in working with the current leadership of the Interior Department.”

 “Instead of seeking to shut down Alaska, Interior should remember that the North Slope was nearly abandoned after 14 dry holes were drilled. The opportunity to keep going led to not only the discovery of Prudhoe Bay, but also the production of more than 17 billion barrels of oil and a generation of opportunity for Alaska.

 “I will certainly remember that fact as I continue to push legislation that will force Interior to hold regular lease sales in the offshore Arctic. The Energy Committee has already reported my OPENS Act to the full Senate for further consideration, and I will be looking at every possible opportunity to advance it into law.”

Alaska’s Arctic waters hold an estimated 24 billion barrels of oil and 104 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In July, Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, advanced the Offshore Production and Energizing National Security (OPENS) Act to ensure that Alaska receives a fair share of the revenue from development in the federal waters off its shores. The OPENS Act also requires annual leases sales in offshore Alaska, including in the near-shore Beaufort Sea.