Industry should know what to expect with permit applications

News this week that Apache Corporation has had to put a “pause” on its three-dimensional seismic imaging work out of Ninilchik came as a disappointment, especially to those folks looking for a little extra income after a tough summer.

Also of concern to Ninilchik residents is the ripple effect of dollars that won’t be circulating through the community this winter.

According to Lisa Parker, Apache’s manager of government relations, the reason for the pause has to do with a number of permits still waiting for approval from federal agencies. Apache is waiting on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the OK to place marine nodes on the floor of Cook Inlet in state waters, and an incidental harassment authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Also in the works is an environmental assessment for work conducted within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Parker said that Apache applied for state and federal permits simultaneously. Some permits were received within two months, others in about six months. And there’s some that Apache just isn’t sure when it will get.

The problem, Parker said, is that while business and industry has a timeline when implementing plans, not all government agencies do. Parker said Apache provided its plans to begin operations along with its permit applications, but has still been left waiting for final decisions.

We believe exploration must be done in an environmentally responsible way, and a rigorous permitting process is part of that.

But a rigorous permitting process must also include a reasonable timeframe for completion. We realize that government and industry move at different paces, but in the business world, time is money.

If a permit application will take six months or more to review, applicants should know that’s what to expect. By the same token, permitting agencies need to set a timeline — and stick to it.

Otherwise, we’re left with a company and a community waiting around for something to do.

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