Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, says she is cautiously optimistic that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed approval of air quality permits will allow Shell to proceed with its planned exploration of the Chukchi Sea.

“The EPA’s decision to approve an air quality permit for Shell’s Chukchi Sea exploration [has] been a long time coming. [The] decision represents progress. While several additional hurdles remain, the agency’s action offers some reassurance that exploration for oil and gas resources off Alaska’s coast will be allowed to proceed,” she said.

For Shell to move forward with its planned exploration in the Chukchi Sea this summer, the EPA still must finalize its approval of the air quality permit, which must then withstand any legal challenges, according to Murkowski. In addition, the Interior Department must reissue its corrected five-year (2007-2012) offshore oil and gas leasing plan as ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (see Daily GPI, July 30, 2009).

Shell spent more than $2 billion in 2008 for the right to explore for oil and gas in parts of the Chukchi Sea, which has estimated reserves of 15 billion bbl of oil and 77 Tcf of natural gas.

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