WASHINGTON D.C.-U.S. Sen. Mark Begich Tuesday released the following statement after the President signed an Executive Order establishing a high-level, interagency working group on coordination of domestic oil development and permitting in Alaska; an idea similar to legislation introduced by Begich three months ago.
“I am pleased to see the President follow through on his March commitment to coordinate federal oil and gas permitting agencies in Alaska,” Begich said. “Today’s announcement recognizes the importance of Alaska’s oil and gas to our nation’s economic and energy security, and I appreciate the President’s personal attention to these issues.”
Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior, David Hayes announced the signing of an Executive Order creating an “Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska.” Chaired by Mr Hayes, the working group will include deputy-level representatives from the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Agriculture and Homeland Security as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation projects.
“For the past two years, I’ve called on the administration to have federal agencies work together in Alaska. The President recognized the problem in his weekly address at the end of March. I give him full marks for honoring his commitment and look forward to the group untying the procedural knots that have stalled development at CD-5 in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and improving permit processing in the OCS.”
“Forming this group is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t mean exploration and development will occur tomorrow. The administration now needs to do the work required to speed and streamline permitting in Alaska. They can be certain that I’ll be following the group very closely. If the work isn’t getting done, I’ll let them know about it,” Begich said.
Senator Begich introduced S. 843, the Outer Continental Shelf Permit Processing Coordination Act, in April 2011. It would create a similar interagency group, additionally including state and local officials, to coordinate and streamline permitting processing in the offshore.
“In his announcement, Deputy Secretary Hayes made particular mention of the group reaching out to Alaska state government and local government. As a former mayor, I particularly want to thank him for acknowledging the unique role local governments have in Alaska’s energy development.”
Since 1977, Alaska’s North Slope has supplied over 16 billion barrels of oil. Current production averages 600,000 – 650,000 barrels/day, approximately 12% of U.S. total. Offshore, federal estimates suggest the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas hold 24 billion barrels of oil and approximately 100 Trillion cubic feet of natural gas.