WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration plans to announce on Thursday a suspension of offshore oil drilling in the Arctic until 2011 as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, an Alaska senator said.
Democratic Senator Mark Begich said he had been told by the Interior Department that the Obama administration will announce that consideration of any applications for exploratory drilling in the Arctic is suspended until 2011.
The suspension is part of measures President Barack Obama plans to order in response to the runaway oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
He is also expected to announce tougher safety requirements for offshore oil drilling and strengthened inspections of oil rigs.
The Arctic decision will suspend plans by Shell Oil to drill exploratory wells off Alaska this summer.
Shell's plans to drill in the Arctic have faced increasing controversy in recent weeks as the government tries to contain the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
"I am frustrated that this decision by the Obama administration to halt offshore development for a year will cause more delays and higher costs for domestic oil and gas production to meet the nation's energy needs," Begich said in a statement.
Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Bill Trott