Sen. Mark Begich, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, promised tough questions to examine the grounding and eventual recovery of Shell's drill rig near Kodiak.
Begich announced his intention to hold a meeting in Alaska to take a closer look at the incident, its causes and the response effort in a letter to Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp Jr. and Shell Oil Company President Marvin Odum issued Tuesday.
In the letter, Begich reiterated how much Alaska and the nation stand to gain from development of Outer Continental Shelf resources:
"Over the past four years, I have worked closely with both of you to ensure we develop the vast oil and gas resources in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas with the highest standards for safety and environmental protection," Begich said in the letter. "Moving ahead with the Arctic drilling program is critical to Alaska's economic future. While this incident notably involves marine transportation and not oil exploration or drilling, we must quickly answer the many questions surrounding the Kulluk grounding and improve any regulatory or operational standards as needed to ensure this type of maritime accident does not occur again."
Part of the overall review will be to ask the Coast Guard about its response to this maritime incident, a timeline of steps taken, and their recommendations on future efforts needed to strengthen safety of development activities in the Arctic.
The Kulluk is currently in safe harbor in Kiliuda Bay after it ran adrift and then aground over a week ago. The Coast Guard is expected to begin their own investigation in the grounding of Shell's drill ship in the coming weeks.