February 12, 2003 --- Vol. 9, No. 16February 2003

British Columbia sets 2010 start-up target for offshore

British Columbia has startled petroleum, aboriginal and environmental leaders by pledging to have an “environmentally sound” offshore oil and natural gas industry operating by 2010.

In making the announcement to open a new season of the provincial legislature Feb. 11, the government said it wants production up and running “and booming with job creation” within seven years.

Energy and Mines Minister Richard Neufeld said a division in his department is working on the offshore plan.

“There’s a lot of work to do in dealing with the federal government and the First Nations communities,” he said. “It is (an optimistic target), but we are sure we can get there.”

In setting a deadline, the government has apparently decided to put pressure on both the Canadian government and aboriginals to reach an agreement ending a 30-year moratorium on offshore exploration.

Until now, Neufeld has refused to set a timeline for the start of offshore exploration, although he has emphasized that his government sets a “high priority” on tapping reserves estimated as high as 9.8 billion barrels of oil and 25.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Although a government-appointed scientific panel last year argued there was no scientific or legal reason to continue the ban on drilling in the area, Neufeld said there was “much more work to be done before any decision to allow exploration or development can proceed.”

But he emphasized that an offshore industry would create “enormous economic benefits” for British Columbians, especially northern communities and First Nations.

Governor sends Legislature executive orders on DGC, Habitat Division

Gov. Frank Murkowski introduced two executive orders in the Legislature today moving permitting functions of the Division of Habitat and Restoration and the entire office of coastal management to the Department of Natural Resources.

"The people of Alaska have shown their strong support for a more effective permitting process, which is not done at the expense of the environment," Murkowski said in a statement.

"The legacy we intend to leave Alaskans is a stronger economy, which is the foundation that supports everything the government provides for the people. Having a more efficient permitting process is key to creating a stronger, more vibrant economy. Moving these two functions into the Department of Natural Resources is the first logical step in creating that more efficient permitting process," the governor said.

Executive Order 106 transfers the functions of the office of coastal management from the Office to the Governor to DNR. Executive Order 107 transfers the permitting functions of the habitat division to DNR; other functions of the division, including research, refuge management and special projects, remain in Fish & Game, the governor's office said.

The executive orders become effective in 60 days if the Legislature does not take action to disapprove them.

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