06/21/2011 - The House is set to streamline regulations around Arctic drilling this week that would speed the development of oil and gas reserves off the Alaskan coast over the objections of environmentalists.
At issue is a series of leases held by Royal Dutch Shell, Conoco Phillips, Norway's Statoil and a handful of other companies in the Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas, which lie west and north of Alaska. The leases are outside Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The areas have been open for drilling for years and the companies have paid billions of dollars to the federal government for the right to explore for oil and gas on them.
Marilyn Heiman, Arctic program director for the Pew Environment Group, said she is not opposed to drilling in Arctic waters eventually, but that more equipment and better procedures need to be in place before the industry begins exploration, which it wants to do in 2012.
Specifically, she wants more deepwater ports built that can handle the large ships needed in case of an accident; a containment dome on standby similar to the one BP used to cap its runaway well in the Gulf last summer, and more airstrips and other infrastructure in place to respond to an emergency.
"The Arctic Ocean is one of the most dangerous places in the world to drill for oil, and we have species there that cannot be found anywhere else in the world," said Marilyn Heiman, Arctic program director for the Pew Environment Group. "This is too much, too soon, too fast."
Heiman cited a news report Monday which quoted the U.S. Coast Guard commandant as saying "there is nothing up there to operate from at present and we're really starting from ground zero."
Read the full article, Lawmakers Set to Allow Speedier Arctic Drilling, on CNN's Web site.