Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Salazar: Administration involved in AK drilling

The Obama administration is concerned in seeing more oil and gas development in Alaska, both onshore and off, but it wants to make sure that any drilling is done sensibly, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday.

Salazar's comments come just days after a central agency gave conditional approval to Shell Oil Co.'s plans to begin drilling in the Arctic Ocean as early as next year. Approval is contingent upon Shell receiving necessary drilling, air quality and other permits and authorizations, including backing of its oil spill response plan.

Critics have charged that the technology and infrastructure do not exist to sufficiently respond to a spill in the Arctic.

Salazar spoke with reporters in Anchorage after a round table conversation on issues including Arctic drilling with business and labor interests. He said lessons learned from last year's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — counting the fact that companies weren't as ready to respond to a spill as they'd claimed — are "engrained" in his mind and that of Deputy Secretary David Hayes.

But he noted that conditions in the Arctic are quite dissimilar than those in the gulf — waters are shallower, for example. The government was looking at ways to develop stronger offshore leasing and development oversight, place conditions on drilling that incorporate lessons learned from the gulf spill and better understand the Arctic, Salazar said.

Earlier in the day, he said greater investment is wanted to build up the nation's Arctic infrastructure, with a role for both the government and private interests to play.

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