Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today the U.S. Department of Interior’s strategy for gathering scientific information that will inform future decisions regarding oil and gas development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Salazar said that he has instructed the U.S. Geological Survey to complete by Oct. 1 a review of existing scientific information relating to the Arctic outer continental shelf, offshore Alaska.
And concurrently with the USGS review, the U.S. Minerals Management Service will gather scientific information about offshore resources, spill response capabilities and environmental sensitivities as part of the environmental scoping for planning the upcoming 2012-17 outer continental shelf lease sale program. The environmental scoping process will include four public meetings to be scheduled in June by the Alaska region of MMS, said MMS science advisor Dr. Alan Thornhill.
Meantime Interior has cancelled previously scheduled Alaska OCS lease sales but is honoring the rights of existing Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea leaseholders, Salazar said. Shell plans to drill two exploration wells in the Beaufort Sea and up to three wells in the Chukchi Sea during the 2010 open water season.
“If we are to responsibly develop energy resources in frontier areas of the outer continental shelf, especially in the Arctic’s extreme environment, we must support exploration activities, gather the science needed and listen to affected communities,” Salazar said. “The studies that USGS and MMS are undertaking and the exploration wells that could be drilled as early as this summer will help us better understand the resources and challenges in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, so that we can make wise decisions about potential resource exploration and extraction activities.”
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