Facing Bipartisan Congressional Pressure, EPA Finally Clears Offshore Permits

January 13, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - Marking the end of a more than five-year bureaucratic saga that has become all too common, federal air permits for exploratory drilling in Alaska's Chukchi Sea were made final yesterday after years of EPA delay. The EPA's internal appeals board rejected the latest in a long series of challenges to the permits, meaning energy exploration can finally move forward after being caught in the web of EPA's circuitous approve-then-appeal permit process. Congressional leaders welcomed news of these long-awaited permits but believe more must be done to accelerate the production of American-made energy.

Last summer the House approved legislation with bipartisan support to help eliminate the bureaucratic permitting delays that have prevented important energy exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf. EPA's endless cycle of reviews and appeals has stalled exploration and drilling in these waters for years.  Reps. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gene Green (D-TX) authored H.R. 2021, the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act, to clarify existing law and streamline the permitting process for offshore operations off the coast of Alaska and other OCS areas governed by EPA. The development of Alaska's Arctic seas could produce up to 1 million barrels of domestic oil per day and create more than 50,000 American jobs.

"This administration has kept Alaska's valuable energy supplies locked away for years. Access to these resources will help reduce our reliance on Middle East oil, create much-needed jobs, and help stabilize gasoline prices, but that will only happen if government gets out of the way," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). "Across the country, Americans are growing anxious as gas prices climb. We need to be doing all we can to harness our domestic energy resources to bring relief at the pump. It took over 5 years for EPA to approve just one drilling permit -this is simply unacceptable. This year our committee will continue to look at ways to reform the current permitting process to ensure a more stable and secure energy future." 

"The long-awaited approval of these permits is a prime example of how pressure from Congress can force the Obama Administration to act.  In passing the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act, we have brought the issue of energy exploration in Alaska's Outer Continental Shelf to the forefront and successfully influenced the EPA appeals board to reject further challenges to these permits," said Gardner.