By Mark Drajem and Jim Snyder
The U.S. Interior Department will lay a framework as soon as Tuesday for oil exploration in the nation’s coastal waters in a five-year plan that is expected to withdraw areas off Alaska while possibly adding parts of the Atlantic.
Republican Lisa Murkowski said the head of the offshore energy office told her the agency will place areas of the energy-rich U.S. Arctic off limits. Those areas had been previously deferred from new leasing. Current leases in the Arctic, such as those held by Royal Dutch Shell Plc, won’t be affected.
“Maybe they’ve changed their minds after listening to the outrage from us. We’ll see,” Murkowski, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told reporters Monday.
Jessica Kershaw, an Interior Department spokeswoman, didn’t respond to an e-mail asking about Murkowski’s comments.
The agency’s proposed plan will control leasing in the Outer Continental Shelf, such as the Gulf of Mexico and Arctic Ocean. The plan may open some areas in the Atlantic for the first time, especially off Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, where governors and many lawmakers support drilling.
“We have the sense that the Atlantic would be in there, and we’ll have to fight to get it out,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president of the environmental group Oceana. “If it’s in the plan, you can kiss your beaches goodbye.”
She said it’s not clear what parts of the Atlantic would be included.
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