Senators want to forever bar offshore rigs from Arctic

Photo by Liz Ruskin
Photo by Liz Ruskin

Fourteen U.S. senators sent a letter to President Obama today, asking him to keep drill rigs out of federal waters in the Arctic forever.

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In recent months, environmentalists have been asking Obama to remove the Arctic from the five-year oil and gas leasing plan for federal waters. Today’s letter, though, asks the president to use a section of the Outer Continental Shelf Leasing Act to permanently exclude the Arctic, and also the Atlantic, from oil and gas leasing. No Republicans signed the letter. Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders is the only non-Democrat on the list.

A coalition of industry groups and Alaska unions has been campaigning to keep the Arctic in the five-year leasing plan, which the Interior Department is expected to release in November.

Whatever the feds decide about Arctic leasing, it will not directly affect the Smith Bay oil find Caelus Energy announced this week. That site is close to land, in state waters. Federal waters begin three nautical miles from the shore.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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