Keep sales off Alaska in next OCS plan, congressional delegation says

Alaska’s congressional delegation called on US Interior Sec. Sally Jewell to keep three federal offshore oil and gas lease sales in waters off the state’s coast in the 2017-22 US Outer Continental Shelf program that is being prepared.

“We write to express our strongest support for a robust program that maintains and accelerates the timing of all lease sales that have been proposed for Alaska’s federal waters,” US Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and US Rep. Don Young jointly said in their May 18 letter to the secretary.

Interior has chosen to delay significantly or outright cancel multiple lease sales planned for the Alaska OCS since 2011, the Republicans asserted. “Last year, the department unilaterally withdrew almost 10 million acres of federal waters from future leasing activity,” they said. Shortly after, Interior proposed a draft 2017-22 program with just three Alaska Arctic lease sales, they said.

“We have expressed our significant frustration with each of these actions and urged Interior to reverse or amend them,” the lawmakers said. “Although we understand that additional lease sales may not be added after the release of a draft proposal, we believe that makes it all the more imperative for all three proposed Alaska sales to remain in the final program.

“A renewed emphasis on offshore leasing can and must serve as the first step towards a workable regulatory regime for the Alaska OCS,” they said. Alaskans strongly support more OCS oil and gas development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas because it will create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in new revenue, as well as help keep the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which now extends at less than half of its capacity, in operation, they said.

“Finally, we must warn against any attempt to use past lease sale cancellations and the chaotic regulatory regime that Interior has imposed as evidence of a ‘lack of industry interest’ in offshore Alaska,” the federal lawmakers wrote. “It is not appropriate for Interior to create these conditions, and then blame others for them, as part of an effort to advance a restrictive agenda that Alaskans strongly disagree with.”

They sent their letter to Jewell a day before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Murkowski chairs, planned to hold a hearing examining the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s proposed 2017-22 OCS oil and gas leasing program.

Contact Nick Snow at

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