House Dems seek pause in Arctic oil exploration

House Democrats on Tuesday pressed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to halt new oil leasing and exploration in the Arctic.

Reps. Rush Holt (N.J.), Lois Capps (Calif.) and David Price (N.C.) spearheaded a letter signed by 59 lawmakers that calls for Jewell to stop new exploration and revamp Interior Department's plans for drilling and permitting.

"Over the past decade, the Department has provided industry ample opportunity to pursue oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean," House Democrats wrote.

"But the industry proposals and government approvals have generated controversy, litigation, and opposition from local communities, Congress, scientists, the conservation community, and many other segments of the American people."

Democrats pointed to the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, which experienced a series of mishaps last year while drilling in Arctic waters. The administration is weighing whether to let the company resume its exploration activities.

"Shell’s mishaps, along with the announcements by ConocoPhillips and Statoil that those companies will not pursue exploration drilling in 2014, provide a welcome opportunity for your agency to re-examine whether to allow oil and gas activities in the Arctic and, if so, under what conditions," lawmakers said in the letter.

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