Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) led 161 of their Republican colleagues in Congress Thursday in pushing the Obama administration to open more of the Outer Continental Shelf to offshore oil and natural gas drilling.

They sent the letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in response to her agency’s January proposal for drilling activities between 2017 and 2022.

{mosads}The GOP said the plan would offer a historically low level of leases while putting new restrictions on leasing and drilling activity.

Murkowski and Bishop chair the congressional committees that oversee offshore drilling.

The administration has closed off 85 percent of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf, which has been “counterproductive to efforts to boost our nation’s economy,” they write.

“As members of Congress committed to a strong, comprehensive domestic energy strategy, we wholeheartedly believe that the United States must not shrink away from developing our nation’s offshore energy resources,” the lawmakers said.

While the Obama administration wants to hold a single lease sale in the Atlantic Ocean and allow drilling for the first time in decades, the Republicans said the plans for the Atlantic and for the Arctic Ocean are overly restrictive.

“While we were pleased to see the administration finally take a step in the right direction by including one potential lease sale in the Atlantic in the draft plan, this step was offset by the additional restrictions in the Atlantic and area withdrawals in the offshore of the Arctic,” the Republicans wrote, referring to areas near Alaska’s shore and in whale hunting spots that were closed off.

Interior must write a final plan based on the public comments it has received. 

Tags Lisa Murkowski Natural gas Offshore drilling oil Rob Bishop

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