The Obama administration plans to suspend domestic offshore drilling through the end of the year, according to a statement released yesterday evening by Sen. Mark Begich.
In response to an ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to recommend canceling exploratory drilling in the Arctic, as well as institute a six-month ban on new deepwater oil wells and halt a proposed lease sale in offshore Virginia, according to various news reports.
Obama is expected to address the issue at a news conference today.
The decision would prevent Shell Oil from drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas this year. In the wake of the spill, Shell proposed additional safety measures, but opposition contends that clean-up technology is unproven in the remote and icy Arctic waters.
“I am frustrated that this decision by the Obama Administration to halt offshore development for a year will cause more delays and higher costs for domestic oil and gas production to meet the nation’s energy needs,” Begich wrote, saying Shell made “an effective case that we can safely explore for oil and gas this summer in the Arctic.”
Begich said he plans to work with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Salazar and Arctic operators over the coming year “to ensure we’re ready to go as soon as possible.”
Editor’s note: See story in the May 30 issue, available online to subscribers at noon Alaska time on Friday, May 28.