GOP senators support new OCS leasing program

Thirty-six Republican senators have given their stamp of approval to a new Outer Continental Shelf five-year oil and gas leasing program for 2019-2024. 

The program “will provide a meaningful review to guarantee that the offshore leasing program contributes to U.S. energy dominance and to ensure some of the most prolific regions of the United States have not been arbitrarily excluded form competitive leasing,” the senators said, in their letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on July 26. 

The senators, including Alaska’ Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, urged Zinke to review areas not included in the program “to ensure that opportunities are not missed.”   

Their comments were contained in a statement released by the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by Murkowski. 

The statement noted that 94 percent of the federal OCS is currently unavailable for leasing. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the OCS contains 89.9 billion barrels of oil and 327.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. 

While the senators laud the program, some environmental entities were less than enthusiastic. 

“There is no compelling reason to revisit the five-year program at this time,” said Mike Levine, an attorney for Oceana in Juneau. 

“The program that was finalized in January of this year reflected careful consideration of the economic and environmental realities of leasing and exploration of leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf and careful consideration of millions of public comments received,” Levine said. “This process is a waste of limited government resources.  Oil companies have recently walked away from billions of dollars in investment in the Arctic and there is no reason to rush to offer new area there,” he said. 

Oceana is an international organization focused solely on oceans, dedicated to achieving measurable change through specific, science-based campaigns. 

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Margaret Bauman is a veteran Alaska journalist focused on covering fisheries and environmental issues. Bauman has been writing for The Cordova Times since 2010. You can reach her at mbauman@thecordovatimes.com.