New bill aims to reverse Obama restrictions on Arctic offshore drilling

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A drilling rig on Oooguruk Island off of the coast of Alaska’s North Slope. (Steve Quinn/AP/CP)
A U.S. House panel took up a bill Wednesday that would, among other things, block new environmental and safety standards the Obama administration imposed on Arctic offshore drilling.

The Obama administration argued that environmental concerns and difficult operating conditions required tougher standards in the Arctic than in other parts of the country.

At the House hearing Wednesday, Alaska Congressman Don Young asked a witness from the American Petroleum Institute to expand on why he says the Arctic rules put the nation at a disadvantage.

Erik Milito with the American Petroleum Institute told Young the Obama administration’s rule was too rigid.

“So there’s some question as to whether or not those additive Alaska Arctic rules were actually providing any additional benefit,” Milito said.

“He basically … took us out of the playground, with those added requirements,” Young said. “That’s what he did.”

The bill would also rescind President Obama’s decision putting most of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off-limits to drilling. And it calls for a study of the inefficiencies of the two agencies that regulate ocean drilling.

Democrats on the panel argued again several provisions in the bill

“Are we going back to a time when everything is about revenue collection?” Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif, asked. “What impacts could this have on safety?”

The bill includes revenue-sharing for Alaska and other states where off-shore drilling would occur. This was the first hearing for the bill, which still must go before the full House Natural Resources Committee.

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Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

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