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Sen. Mark Begich on Jobs Lost in His State Due to Exploratory Drill Halt

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," May 27, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, ANCHOR: And one big old slick mess. I’m not talking about that leak in the Gulf they think they’re slowing, but the fuss over the president’s decision just hours ago to stop the drilling, because, for the next six months, guess what? It ain’t happening, not only in the Gulf, but in the Arctic.

You want to go drilling in deep water, you’re going to have to go deep into next year’s calendar before you can even drive. The move has Republicans up in arms and oil prices, well, just up. That ain’t a typo. We were up better than $3 a barrel today.

And even some Democrats — yes, Democrats — are acting up, including Alaska’s Democratic Senator Mark Begich, who says that the president just killed a lot of jobs in his state today. Senator, your concern is what, if this drags on?

SEN. MARK BEGICH D-ALASKA: Well, Neil, thank you very much.

It is a concern, not only about the jobs that are going to be lost now and into the future, but our continued efforts to make sure we produce our own oil and gas for our own national security.

And when you made the comment about deep well, in Alaska, those wells are only 150 feet, significantly — you know, pretty shallow. And this year was to do an exploratory to continue to figure out the geology of the oil in our Arctic, and this was not to actually tap into it.

So, in a lot of ways, it’s not just six months for us, because we have very limited time that we’re allowed to drill these exploratory wells. It means a year from now, which is very disheartening and really very frustrating.

A lot of our work in Alaska, every time we turn around, we get litigated. I think we’re the most litigated oil and gas exploration projects in the nation. And so we go through kind of an extra level of scrutiny beyond the regulatory process of EPA, MMS, and many other agencies.

And for now to be told we’re on hold because we’re kind of a casualty of the BP tragedy down in the Gulf, I think, is going to be damaging to our economy and our national security over the long haul.

CAVUTO: Well, you said jobs would be lost. Did you mean jobs would be lost if it stays at six months, or jobs would be lost if it goes beyond six months?

BEGICH: Both, because we know there are people who are gearing up to start this continued exploration this summer. And now that work will not happen. So those jobs that were lined up to continue to do this work will not happen.

They will be in hold pattern or, in some cases, will not actually even do the work and go off out of the state, because there’s no work to be done. So, we have to wait a year.

What we’re hoping for, this pause that the administration has done, it’s not a stop button. And we have got to be very careful about this. But, truth, right now, there were people — I was in Alaska last week and about 10 days ago, and people came up to me excited about their new prospects of being part of the exploratory efforts this summer. They’re not going to be part of that exploratory efforts this summer.

CAVUTO: Well, are you then mad, Senator? I mean, BP got a lot of the blame in the president’s press conference today, as is — would be expected.

BEGICH: Yes.

CAVUTO: I mean, it did start this.

BEGICH: Sure.

CAVUTO: But are you bitter at BP for that sinner now destroying it for everybody?

(CROSSTALK)

BEGICH: Well, we’re — in a lot of ways, we’re the casualty of their — their misstep down there in the Gulf.

And there are two different kinds of activities. One, they were 5,000-plus feet into the ground, with over 2,000 pounds-per-square-inch pressure coming out of the ground.

CAVUTO: Yes.

BEGICH: In Alaska, it’s about 150 feet, and only about 70 pounds per square inch.

So, the — the difference is pretty significant. But it is — you know, we’re a casualty of this issue and the tragedy that BP is involved in. CAVUTO: All right.

BEGICH: And I think we should look at these issues separately. And it jeopardizes jobs and our national security, I think, over the long haul.

CAVUTO: All right, Senator, a real pleasure. I know you’ve had a frantic day. We appreciate you taking the time.

BEGICH: Thank you, Neil, as always. Look forward to talking to you again.

CAVUTO: Same here. All right.

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