ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Interior Department's deputy secretary said Thursday that there will be no slowdown of the permitting process for Arctic offshore drilling if President Obama is re-elected.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC was allowed to begin exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska's north shores this summer, but U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, told Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes that he's heard concerns that permitting might be reversed.
"That's a question we hear rumbling out there," Begich said.
That's not the case, Hayes said.
"Shell and a number of other companies have leases that they have entered into with the United States government that give them certain development rights," he said. "It's our responsibility under the law to implement those permitting processes and we will continue to do that."
The exchange took place at a Senate subcommittee hearing billed as an opportunity to review lessons learned following the first Arctic exploratory drilling in two decades.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC has spent $4.5 billion on Arctic offshore drilling, hoping to tap into reserves estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey at 26 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. ConcocoPhillips and Statoil could begin exploratory drilling in the next two years.
Begich invited government representatives and businesses that support drilling but nobody from the environmental community that bitterly opposes Arctic offshore drilling. They claim oil companies have not demonstrated an ability to clean up a spill of crude oil in ocean waters partially filled with or covered by ice. They also claim there are gaps in basic science knowledge and infrastructure in the region.
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