After enduring nearly six years of opposition and an unnecessarily grueling permitting process, Shell is poised to begin energy exploration in Alaska's Arctic waters as early as next week. The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced that preliminary work may commence on a single well in the Chukchi sea, but final permits to allow for drilling still have yet to be issued. In June of 2011, the House passed bipartisan legislation to help streamline permitting in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, a legislative solution that would prevent similar energy and job creation delays in the future. The Jobs and Energy Permitting Act, H.R. 2021, authored by Energy and Commerce Committee Reps. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gene Green (D-TX), clarifies existing law and eliminates bureaucratic permitting delays blocking energy exploration and production off the coast of Alaska and in other areas in the Outer Continental Shelf.
"Interior's announcement is a positive step, but it should not take six years to obtain a simple exploration permit and the Obama administration still has yet to issue the final green light for energy production in the Arctic," said H.R. 2021 author Rep. Cory Gardner. "The need for legislative action is just as urgent today as valuable resources off the coast of Alaska and the Outer Continental Shelf remain off limits. Developing Alaska's offshore resources would spur economic growth and increase our energy security, helping put us on a path toward North American energy independence. With gas prices at an all-time high for Labor Day weekend, families hitting the road for their final summer vacation will sadly pay the price for the Obama administration's "all-of-the-above but nothing from below' energy policy. We can do better, and the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act is an important step in the right direction."
The Jobs and Energy Permitting Act is critical as two of Alaska's Arctic seas -- the Beaufort and Chukchi -- are estimated to contain up to 27.9 billion barrels of oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the USGS. This resource, if developed, could produce up to 1 million barrels of oil per day of domestic energy. This volume could completely offset our imports from Saudi Arabia. Additionally, a study performed by Northern Economics and the University of Alaska estimates over 54,000 jobs could be created and sustained with offshore production in Alaska.