Alaska's pro-offshore drilling congressional delegation is optimistic that federal regulators will give Shell Oil a green light to explore in waters off the North Slope this summer.
Their testimonial to opening a controversial new oil frontier in Arctic waters came as Shell filed new assurances with federal regulators that the company has adopted new safeguards in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico spill.
The three-member congressional delegation had a rare convergence in Anchorage on Monday at a downtown Chamber of Commerce lunch.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich and Congressman Don Young took turns during the lunch -- which drew a crowd numbering in the hundreds -- to share their opinions about national and Alaska energy issues.
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The lawmakers spent a lot of their time talking about matters that had nothing to do with Shell's controversial drilling plans for the Beaufort and Chukchi seas or the massive oil leak from a Gulf of Mexico oil well. For example, they criticized the federal Environmental Protection Agency's attempt to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions and the Fish & Wildlife Service's plan to study the possibility of designating the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's coastal plain as wilderness, making it off-limits to oil companies.
But they did speak at some length about Shell's project, which they all favor. They emphasized that offshore and onshore drilling in the United States is necessary, despite the anxiety created by the big Gulf oil leak.
"To consume, we must produce from our own land," said Begich, calling it a moral obligation.
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