U.S. study probes OCS energy development

June 24, 2011 at 9:47 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 24 (UPI) -- Washington wants a better understanding of environmental and social consequences of oil and gas operations off Alaska's coast, the interior secretary said.

Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill meant to remove obstacles to energy production on the Outer Continental Shelf. Supporters of the measure say lower energy prices and more domestic energy security could come from oil and gas exploration in places such as Alaska.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said there is a significant potential for oil and gas development in the arctic waters off the coast of Alaska.

"To make responsible decisions, we need to understand the environmental and social consequences of development and plan accordingly," he said in a statement.

A 249-page report from the U.S. Geological Survey, ordered by Salazar in 2010, outlines more than 50 findings and recommendations regarding OCS energy development.

Key findings include spill-risk evaluation based on oceanographic, weather and ecological data. Advocacy groups such as Greenpeace worry that any spill like last year's accident in the Gulf of Mexico would cause irreparable environmental damage.

"This study is helpful in assessing what we know and will help inform determinations about what we need to know to develop our Arctic energy resources in the right places in the right way," added Salazar.

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