Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is visiting Alaska along with Deputy Secretary David Hayes, who is chairman of a high-level working group on energy development onshore and in the Arctic Ocean. They are also reviewing proposed exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said a recent report on pipelines in Alaska suggested more domestic energy resources are needed, especially from offshore reserves.
Environmental groups say they are worried about the consequences of oil spills in arctic waters, a concern exacerbated by last year's spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
"As we move forward with a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to harnessing Alaska's energy supplies, it is imperative that we continue to be guided by the best available science and that we ensure that the state's land, water and wildlife are protected for future generations," said Salazar in a statement.
U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Robert Papp in testimony before lawmakers in July said his agency was starting from "ground zero" in terms of response capabilities for spills in arctic waters.
Royal Dutch Shell, however, said it expects to get approval soon for work off Alaska's coast.