Spill Panel Chairman: Shell Arctic Proposal 'As Good As I Have Ever Seen'

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Jan. 26, 2011

It is "perfectly reasonable" to expect that Shell will receive a pending permit to drill off Alaska's northern coast within about a year, the co-chairman of a U.S. panel investigating the Deepwater Horizon spill said Wednesday.

William Reilly, testifying before the Senate Committee on Energy and Commerce, was pressed on the panel's recent report, which raised concerns about the safety of drilling in the Arctic. The panel had questioned the oil industry's and the Coast Guard's ability to respond to a spill in those areas.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the highest ranking Republican on the committee, said the need for more research should not delay permitting pending proposals like Shell's.

Reilly responded by saying "the Shell proposal is as good as I have ever seen" in areas such as the capability of preventing a spill and the ability to respond to one. "I think that's generally acknowledged by most observers," he said.

It is "perfectly reasonable," Reilly said, to anticipate drilling would be permitted in the Chuckchi Sea, where Shell has applied for a permit "within another year or so."

Reilly and former Sen. Bob Graham, co-chairmen of the panel President Barack Obama appointed to look at the spill, testified before the U.S. Senate Wednesday.

The panel's 380-page report, released earlier this month, faulted oil firms for their role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster and identified systemic problems with government oversight and industry safety, giving federal agencies and Congress a long list of recommendations to address those issues.

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