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Obama Sets Up Group to Coordinate Alaska Oil Exploration

By Katarzyna Klimasinska – Jul 12, 2011 6:39 PM GMT+0100

President Barack Obama created an interagency working group led by the Interior Department to oversee oil and natural gas exploration in Alaska.

The group will coordinate permit decisions and environmental reviews for onshore and offshore projects, including Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA)’s plan to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, David Hayes, deputy Interior secretary and the working-group leader, told reporters today in Washington.

“We’re not looking to this group to be a super-permitting agency, to be a one-stop shop,” Hayes said. “The primary purpose of this is to ensure coordination and broad sharing of information.”

Shell is waiting for U.S. approval to begin exploring on leases The Hague-based company purchased in the Beaufort Sea in 2005 and in the Chukchi Sea in 2008. Shell needs permits from agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

The working group was established today in an executive order issued by the White House.

Shell has said it plans to drill as many as two wells a year in the Beaufort Sea, and as many as three a year in the Chukchi Sea from 2012 through 2013 after investing $3.5 billion on Alaska drilling efforts.

Obama in his weekly radio and Internet address on May 14 said the administration will encourage domestic production with annual lease sales in Alaska, creating a “new team” to coordinate Alaska drilling, faster evaluations of oil and gas resources in the Atlantic Ocean and incentives to develop unused leases.

To contact the reporter on this story: Katarzyna Klimasinska in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at [email protected]

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