Obama forms federal interagency Alaska oil, gas working group

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, July 12 -- US President Barack Obama issued an executive order establishing an interagency working group to coordinate federal agencies’ efforts in overseeing onshore and offshore oil and gas development in Alaska. The group will be chaired by Deputy US Interior Sec. David J. Hayes.

Addressing a Center for Strategic and International Studies seminar on Arctic oil and gas resources, Hayes said the group’s formation reflects the Obama administration’s recognition that safe and responsible development of US oil and gas resources requires different approaches and technologies in each geographic location.

“This is particularly true when it comes to Alaska, whose natural resources offer significant promise for energy development, while posing challenges associated with the conditions of Arctic environments,” he said.

Hayes said that while agencies across the federal government have various responsibilities to protect those resources, “it’s important that we speak with one voice.”

He noted that the group will include deputies or comparable officials from the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, and Energy; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects.

“We’ll simplify decision-making processes by making sure that we’re doing our part to collaborate as we evaluate permits and conduct rigorous environmental reviews,” Hayes explained.

The state’s congressional delegation cautiously welcomed the news. Its two US senators and single House member separately called the federal interagency working group’s formation a positive step, but promised to watch its progress closely and let it know if it’s falling short of its goals.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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