Taking a more measured response

Posted: Friday, June 04, 2010

WHEN PRESIDENT OBAMA ANNOUNCED A one-year delay on offshore drilling last month - in response to the still gushing BP deepwater rig in the Gulf of Mexico - reaction was swift and not unexpected.

Sen. Mark Begich was first out of the chute, saying: "I am frustrated that this decision by the Obama Administration to halt offshore development for a year will cause more delays and higher costs for domestic oil and gas production to meet the nation's energy needs. Another year of delay costs money and Alaska jobs."

Gov. Sean Parnell weighed in similarly: "I simply cannot understand how the federal government could approve plans of exploration only five months ago - approvals that were upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals - but now refuse to take the final step . . ."

As did Congressman Don Young: "I am incredibly disappointed in this irrational and careless decision . . .This emotional decision is the worst economic decision the Administration has made and it is wrong for the country, plain and simple."

Many Alaskans were thinking the same, especially in reference to Shell Oil's impending exploration of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas this summer. Now, that's on hold for at least a year. And in a state that depends on oil tax revenues, that's just bad news.

But read again Sen. Lisa Murkowski's response to Obama's action:

"All of us are committed to protecting Alaska's waters. I'm also committed to protecting Alaska's economy," Murkowski said. "If the delay is for a season to ensure we have the highest levels of protection in place, that's one thing.

"But if it means that existing permits are allowed to lapse - effectively killing Shell's participation in Alaska - that's not acceptable to me or Alaska."

Sen. Murkowski is no less disappointed with the Obama administration than other Alaskans. And yet, her response is reasonable and, let's face it, practical.

Sen. Murkowski went on to push for assurances from the administration: "The administration must commit to extending Shell's environmental permits and lease terms during this delay to provide the company some level of certainty that it will be able to resume operations next spring."

We are currently witnessing a crude oil catastrophe far surpassing that of the Exxon Valdez more than two decades ago. In terms of the ecological and economic impact, the BP oil leak stands to do far more damage to the Gulf states than was done in Prince William Sound.

Could we look in the eye of our fellow oil states, or other coastal states where drilling is pending, and suggest a year is too much to bear?

In the face of what's going on in the Gulf, we think Sen. Murkowski is taking the reasonable and responsible view.

In short: A reasonable response to a one-year moratorium is more constructive than simply saying "No."

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