Begich Cuts the Red Tape for Oil Drilling

Begich Cuts the Red Tape for Oil Drilling

By Dan Frank – As the November election approaches, I am compelled to write in support of Senator Begich. His success in bringing Shell to drill in the Arctic proves his ability to not only fight for Alaska’s best interest back in D.C., but actually deliver results. A lot of jobs depend on Shell’s success. I am proud of Senator Begich’s work for Shell, and I don’t want to see that work erased.
 
As Alaskans all know, oil drives our economy. It provides countless jobs to Alaskans and more revenue to the economy than any other industry. We would not be where we are today without our oil industry – it’s that simple. Mark Begich gets that better than anyone.
 
When Mark Begich was elected to the Senate, Shell had leases to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas – areas estimated to hold 24 billion barrels. But the company still faced significant hurdles before they received the permits necessary to put drills in the ground.   Bureaucratic red tape met Shell at every turn.
 
Begich understood these challenges, and from day one in the Senate, he worked around the clock to push the permitting process forward.  Even before he took office, Begich made sure the President knew he’d prioritize fighting for offshore drilling if elected, telling him so at a Mayors conference in the summer of 2008.
 
And he followed through on his promise. He relentlessly met with the President and EPA, refusing to give up or take no for an answer.  In meeting after meeting, phone call after phone call, he made sure they knew he was serious about making sure this time around Shell would meet the highest safety standards and work with the Alaska Natives who live on the North Slope to protect their way of life. When the administration gave vague plans and timelines, Begich demanded clarity.  He even threatened to block the confirmation of a White House nominee until the administration solidified a plan for Arctic drilling.
 
In 2011, Begich took matters into his own hands after the permits were again delayed because of the Gulf oil spill and the withdrawal of an air pollution permit for one of Shell’s drilling rigs.  Begich and Murkowski introduced a bill that would streamline and simplify the permitting process – a model that inspired the administration to adopt a similar framework, speeding up the approval of federal leases.
 
And Begich kept the heat on the President. Finally, the President took action: Shell was given permits to drill. In 2012, Shell began drilling in the Chukchi Sea, marking the first time any drilling had taken place in that region for over two decades.  This accomplishment cannot be overstated: most believed Shell would never be allowed to drill in these waters.  Begich made the impossible happen.
 
Since then, Shell hit some legal and logistical roadblocks that forced them to pull out.  Some worried they weren’t coming back. But the CEO of Shell just this summer announced the company is committed to coming back to the Arctic in 2015.
 
And we need a Senator who will make sure they get here and fight for other companies to drill here as well.  Mark Begich has proven he has the clout and influence to get the job done.
 
As oil production has declined in the past couple decades, it is even more important now we have a Senator like Mark Begich fighting tooth and nail back in D.C. to develop our oil responsibly. We cannot afford to lose him in the Senate. Keep Alaska’s senate seat filled with an Alaskan.
 
Alaska’s economy depends on it.
 

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