Alaska District Court Judge Ralph Beistline yesterday issued a revised version of a court injunction against oil and gas lease related activities in the Chukchi Sea. The revised order makes it clear that Statoilís planned 2010 Chukchi Sea seismic program does not fall within the scope of the injunction. Neither does the injunction apply to some environmental studies, geotechnical surveys and shallow hazard surveys that Shell plans to carry out in the Chukchi Sea this year.
Beistline had issued the injunction on July 21 in response to an appeal against the U.S. Minerals Management Service 2008 Chukchi Sea lease sale in which both Shell and Statoil had picked up leases. The judge banned all activities relating to leases purchased in that lease sale until the U.S. Department of Interior reworks some aspects of the saleís environmental impact statement.
Statoil had told the court that uncertainty around the scope of the injunction was delaying the issue of the Department of the Interior geological and geophysical exploration permit and the National Marine Fisheries Service incidental harassment authorization, both of which Statoil needs before it can start its seismic work. Statoil has said that if it does not obtain the remaining permits by Aug. 6 it would likely have to cancel its Chukchi seismic program in 2010.
Statoilís planned seismic survey falls under the terms of a geological and geophysical permit, rather than under the terms of an oil and gas lease, and would cover a wide area of the Chukchi Sea, well beyond the boundaries of Statoilís leases.
Clarification of the scope of the injunction will presumably open the way for the issue of Statoilís remaining permits, but it is not yet known when or whether the permits will be issued, or whether Statoilís seismic program will in fact go ahead.
Yesterdayís court order came after this weekís issue of Petroleum News went to press and, so the Aug. 8 issue of the paper is reporting that the scope of the injunction is still unclear.
See story in Aug. 15 issue, available to subscribers online at noon, Friday, Aug. 13, at www.PetroleumNews.com