JUNEAU, Alaska, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Interior Department is illegally blocking oil-and-gas drilling in federal waters off Alaska's northern coast, a suit filed by the state alleges.
The lawsuit filed by Gov. Sean Parnell's administration alleges an illegal moratorium is in effect for shallow Arctic waters even though they aren't subject to the Interior Department's deep-water drilling suspension imposed after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, The Hill reported Friday.
"Development of Alaska's (outer continental shelf) resources is of critical importance to Alaska's future and the economic and security interests of the United States," Parnell said in a statement Thursday after the suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska. "We are taking this action to ensure that the federal government abides by applicable federal law, including its legal responsibility to make the (Alaska Outer Continental Shelf) available for expeditious and orderly development."
Shell Oil has been seeking federal permission to begin exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas but Interior isn't allowing the action this year, The Hill said.
Interior Department officials called the lawsuit baseless and defended the decision to slow development in Arctic waters.
"There is no moratorium in Alaska and therefore nothing to sue on. The moratorium is on deep-water drilling and there is no deep-water drilling in Alaska," Interior spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said.