House OKs speed-up of Arctic oil/gas permitting
The House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday that would speed up approvals for drilling in the Arctic by removing regulatory hurdles that have stymied development of the area's vast oil and gas resources.
The Republican-controlled House voted 253 to 166 in favor of the bill, which would require the Environmental Protection Agency to approve or deny applications to drill on the outer continental shelf within six months.
"Current impediments have delayed development of the Beaufort and Chukchi sea for over five years," the bill's sponsor, Republican congressman Cory Gardner, said in a speech on the House floor.
"These are areas that have already been approved for drilling; the revenues for the leases have already been collected by the federal government," he said.
The bill, which faces a tougher road to passage in the Democrat-controlled Senate, would also eliminate the authority of EPA's Environmental Appeals Board to weigh in on the Arctic exploration permits.
That appeals board scuttled Royal Dutch Shell's plans to drill in the Beaufort Sea this year, when it revoked a key air permit.
The board's decision was the latest in a series of setbacks Shell has encountered since it began picking up significant offshore Alaska leases in 2005.
Shell has recently submitted two new exploration plans to begin drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2012 and 2013.