Today President Obama, formalizing one of several steps he announced this spring to continue to increase safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production, announced the formation of a new, high-level interagency working group to coordinate on energy development in Alaska. Officially created through an Executive Order, President Obama established the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska. As Deputy Secretary of the Interior, I am honored to lead this cross-agency team.
The formation of this group is only the most recent step the President has taken to support the increased development our nation’s important resources, while ensuring that we do so safely and responsibly, including being guided by the important lessons learned by the largest oil spill in our nation’s history. The foundation for this effort is laid out in the President’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future , which charts a path to build a 21st century clean energy economy over the long term and dramatically cut our oil imports by 2025, through the responsible development of oil and gas at home, while at the same time facilitating the development of cleaner, alternative fuels and increasing efficiency .
A key part of safe and responsible development of our oil and gas resources is recognizing that different environments and communities require different approaches and technologies. Rather than taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach, the Blueprint rightly calls for region-specific strategies. This is particularly true when it comes to Alaska, whose natural resources offer significant promise for energy development, while posing challenges associated with the conditions of Arctic environments. Its heritage is rich and diverse, and development must take into account the cultural, economic, and subsistence needs of different communities.
While agencies across the Federal government have various responsibilities to protect these resources as part of safe and responsible development in Alaska, it’s important that we speak with one voice. Congressional leaders agree, and on both sides of the aisle they have called for coordination on Alaska energy development and permitting.
That’s where the Working Group comes in. I’ll chair the group, which will include senior officials from the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Agriculture, Energy, Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects. These officials will be joined by officials from across the Executive Office of the President. Together, this group will play a number of important coordinating functions:
We look forward to continuing our work with partners inside and outside of the Federal government on this important issue, and hope that the formation of this new group will help reinforce the importance of collaboration and consultation across different levels of government.