Alaska Seeks to Overturn Delay in Arctic Drilling

Alaska recently filed a petition to try and overturn the Obama administration’s hold on any drilling in federal waters in the Arctic. Officials from the Department of the Interior, on the other hand, have insisted that no such moratorium exists.

Alaska Whale Breach

Alaska’s legal petition asserts that the Department of the Interior’s “arbitrarily and capriciously imposed” hold on drilling in federal waters after the Deepwater Horizon disaster was brought about “without considering and weighing the potential effects on Alaska, including economic harm to the State of Alaska and Alaska residents.”

The Governor of Alaska, Sean Parnell has backed the petition, based on the economic damage he says the hold could cause. Parnell said in a statement regarding the petition,

“Development of Alaska’s (Outer Continental Shelf) resources is of critical importance to Alaska’s future and the economic and security interests of the United States.”

He added,

“We are taking this action to ensure that the federal government abides by applicable federal law, including its legal responsibility to make the OCS available for expeditious and orderly development.”

Officials for the Department of the Interior said that the moratorium on drilling was completely separate from the slow approach to Alaskan drilling. Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, said “We are taking a cautious approach to offshore oil and gas development as we strengthen safety and oversight of offshore oil and gas operations. This includes the Arctic, which presents unique environmental challenges.” Regarding the petition, she added “There is no moratorium in Alaska and therefore nothing to sue on. The moratorium is on deepwater drilling and there is no deepwater drilling in Alaska.”

Bald Eagle in Alaska Mountains

Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior, said during an Anchorage news conference last week that the existing hold on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico does affect the state of Alaska, although later in the same conference he and other officials attempted to make a distinction between the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the related but separate decision to wait on drilling in Alaskan waters. A court decision has blocked any drilling in the Chukchi Sea for the foreseeable future, regardless of any of the Interior Department decisions. Judge Ralph Beistline, a United States District Court Judge, ruled that no activities regarding exploration could be allowed until the deficiencies are remedied. Eventually, a proper environmental review will be conducted and drilling exploration will be able to commence.