Alaska Pushes to Expedite Offshore Drilling


"Gov. Sean Parnell wrote that 'Alaska is the United States' most important and abundant domestic source of future oil and gas.'"

Alaska's governor asked federal regulators Thursday to move ahead in allowing new oil development in the Arctic Ocean, as the state looks for ways to shore up declining production.

In a letter sent Thursday to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Gov. Sean Parnell wrote that "Alaska is the United States' most important and abundant domestic source of future oil and gas." He cited a 2008 U.S. Geological Survey report that estimated more than 10 billion barrels of oil and more than 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lay beneath the surface of Alaska's Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

Mr. Parnell seized on current concerns in the U.S. about the stability of foreign sources of oil, amid turmoil in the Middle East and rising oil prices.

"We need to develop and increase our domestic supply of oil and gas," Mr. Parnell wrote.

The governor and other Alaska officials have been working to streamline oil-production taxes and take other measures to attract more onshore and offshore oil and natural-gas development in Alaska.

Mr. Parnell has introduced legislation, currently working its way through the state legislature, that would slash oil-production taxes put in place by his predecessor, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Mr. Parnell said Wednesday that he had set a "new goal for Alaska" of one million barrels of oil production per day through the Trans Alaska Pipeline System within 10 years. Current oil production shipped from Alaska's North Slope 800 miles to the port of Valdez through the pipeline system is about 600,000 barrels per day, down from its peak of about two million barrels a day 20 years ago.

While Alaska has encouraged production on state lands and in state waters, for which it would earn production royalties, officials are also keen to see new offshore drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, as Alaska collects fees from oil shipped through the Trans Alaska Pipeline.

Alaska's government has also encouraged development of a natural-gas pipeline that would ship gas from the North Slope to Canada and the Continental U.S. An alternative project would entail building a liquefied-natural-gas terminal that would export Alaska gas to overseas markets.

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