Murkowski Files to Give Air Quality Authority for Arctic OCS to Interior Department
Provision would remove clean-air permitting from EPA’s oversight
Senator Lisa Murkowski announced in a press release this morning that she has filed a provision in an Interior appropriations bill to move authority over air quality in potential offshore drilling sites in the Arctic from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of the Interior. Murkowski is the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, giving her appropriating power for the Interior Department.
The provision is part of the 2012 spending bill for the Department of Interior introduced Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate was expected to introduce parallel legislation soon.
Murkowski’s release praises the switch as “one of the most important steps Congress can take to ensure that responsible development is allowed to go forward in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.” Currently the EPA has jurisdiction over air quality permitting for Alaska’s outer continental shelf, but the Gulf of Mexico’s air quality permitting is overseen by the Interior Department. Murkowski says the Interior Department processes permits in a matter of months, compared with the EPA, in one example, making Shell wait more than five years to obtain permits to drill off the coast of Alaska.
The release acknowledges obstacles before passage of the bill, but quotes Murkowski as saying, “While we are pleased the language is in the Interior appropriations bill, we know this is just one step forward in the process for responsible development and energy security for Alaska and the nation.”
Below, Senator Murkowski talks about the proposed change.