House Dems seek new DOI Alaska offshore air pollution rules

Four Democratic leaders from two key US House committees and subcommittees asked US Interior Sec. Ken Salazar to issue new regulations controlling air pollution from oil drilling off Alaska’s north coast. Authority to do so was transferred from the US Environmental Protection Agency to Interior under the Fiscal 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act, they noted.

Ranking Minority Members Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), of the Energy and Commerce Committee; Bobby L. Rush (Ill.), of that committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee; Edward J. Markey (Mass.), of the Natural Resources Committee; and Rush D. Holt (NJ), also recommended specific measures they said would match the level of protection EPA previously offered under the Clean Air Act.

The four Democrats urged Salazar, in an Apr. 11 letter, to require all major drilling operations off Alaska’s Arctic coast to meet specific air pollution requirements, instead of simply requiring each drilling permit applicant to estimate its projected emissions levels.

They said they also want DOI to require offshore drilling operations to account for emissions from support vessels, and to measure air-quality impacts at the pollution’s source instead of onshore. Interior also should provide adequate public comment opportunities on a drilling applicant’s air-pollution analysis; and ensure permitting regulations fully consider the Arctic’s unique characteristics and vulnerabilities, they recommended.

“Shifting oversight from one branch of the federal government to another should not result in more air pollution and fewer protections for the Alaskan people and Native Alaskans in particular,” the Congressmen said in their letter.

“We therefore urge you to promulgate regulations to implement your new authority…to ensure that DOI provides Native Alaskans and the Arctic environment with a level of protection commensurate to what EPA has provided under the Clean Air Act,” they said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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