Alaska's Congressional delegation today met with NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, raising concerns about a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on the effects of oil and natural gas activities on the Arctic Ocean and highlighting the importance of exploration and development in the region.
The DEIS addresses how noise and other possible impacts from exploration and development affect marine mammals and fish in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. The delegation raised concerns that the final EIS could create a set of further timing and spatial restrictions beyond those already listed in the leases held by oil companies.
"I understand the importance of NOAA's role in ensuring explorers in the Arctic avoid conflicts with marine mammals but, as it stands, the DEIS is flawed and goes beyond the agency's mission and expertise," Senator Lisa Murkowski said.
"I appreciate Administrator Lubchenco taking the time to hear from a united delegation on this pressing issue," said Senator Mark Begich. "We all understand that marine mammals are important, but the document, as it stands, is flawed. I believe she understands that and am encouraged about our prospects to improve it moving forward."
"As I made clear to Administrator Lubchenco today, this document -- as written -- is not only troubling to me, but to the entire Alaska delegation," said Representative Don Young. "Moving forward, it's important that this document advances not hinders responsible development in the Arctic, and after today's meeting, Administrator Lubchenco understands our concerns."
In particular, the delegation noted that the most aggressive possible alternative in the DEIS would not allow leaseholders Shell, ConocoPhillips and Statoil to engage in simultaneous exploration drilling in the Chukchi Sea. They also asked Administrator Lubchenco to commit to stronger inter-agency cooperation before moving forward with the document.