The Latest: Senator says halting offshore drilling will lead to more social woes for Alaskans

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The latest on the Interior Department’s announcement that it is cancelling future lease sales and will not extended current leases in Arctic waters off Alaska’s northern coast (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

Dan Sullivan, Alaska’s junior U.S. senator, says the Obama administration is being very hypocritical in its treatment of Alaskans and Alaska Natives by shutting down offshore drilling.

Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan said Friday the administration is correct to help look for solutions to the state’s high rates of suicide, domestic violence and addiction.

But he says that in the next breath, the administration takes away jobs that would help ease some of the suffering.

Sullivan says these oil jobs are real and significant “opportunities that could benefit thousands if not tens of thousands of Alaskans.”

He says taking these potential jobs off the table isn’t going to help the social problems facing Alaskans, and will actually make them worse.


2:55 p.m.

The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. House is suggesting Alaska officials take a more aggressive stance with drilling.

Alaska’s lone congressman, Don Young, made the comments Friday after the Obama administration announced it wouldn’t renew Shell’s permits to drill off Alaska’s northern coasts and cancelled future lease sales.

Young says the state should just start drilling in offshore waters it controls and within 200 yards of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He says the administration won’t pay any attention to Alaskans as long as they just talk about doing something.

Young also says he isn’t surprised by the Interior Department’s decision. He says the Obama administration is “adamantly opposed” to fossil fuels and will do anything to stop it.

He anticipates the state will sue over Friday’s decision.


2:15 p.m.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker says the Obama administration’s decision to essentially put drilling in Arctic waters off Alaska’s northern coast off-limits as a “loss of hope.”

Walker said Friday the decision from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell “pretty much shut down offshore” drilling, leaving onshore drilling as the only option in Alaska.

After Shell announced it was pausing its Arctic drilling after poor well results, Walker went to Washington to push Jewell on opening up a small part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She indicated at the time that opening the refuge might be a political hurdle.

Walker says he’s vey “adamant and aggressive” about opening up the small patch of the coastal plain of the refuge to drilling to help the economy of his oil-dependent state.

He says, “We know where the oil is, we just don’t have access to it.”


12:45 p.m.

The Interior Department says it will not extend Arctic offshore leases held by Royal Dutch Shell and other companies in Arctic waters off Alaska’s northern coast.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says she’s also cancelling new lease sales tentatively scheduled for the next two years.

The decision significantly reduces the chances for future Arctic offshore drilling.

Shell announced Sept. 28 it would cease exploration in the Chukchi (chuk-CHEE’) and Beaufort seas after spending upward of $7 billion on Arctic exploration.

The company cited disappointing results from a well drilled in the Chukchi and the unpredictable federal regulatory environment.

Federal leases in the Beaufort Sea are due to expire in 2017 and in the Chukchi in 2020.

Jewell says that in light of Shell’s announcement, it doesn’t make sense to prepare for lease sales in the Arctic in the next year and a half.