The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has published the final supplemental environmental impact statement for the 2008 Chukchi Sea lease sale in which Shell, ConocoPhillips, Statoil and other companies purchased leases. The agency has been reworking the supplemental environmental impact statement for the lease sale as a consequence of a federal District Court in Alaska order in an appeal against the validity of the sale's original environmental impact statement.
"Alaska is a critical component of our nation's energy portfolio, and the Chukchi Sea has substantial oil and gas potential, as well as sensitive marine and coastal resources that Alaska Native communities depend on for subsistence," Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said today when announcing the release of the SEIS. "The updated analysis is a major step toward resolving the 2008 oil and gas leases that have been tied up in the courts for years. We remain committed to taking a thoughtful and balanced approach to oil and gas leasing and exploration in this unique, sensitive and often challenging environment."
The proposed action in the SEIS is to affirm the 2008 lease sale. However, BOEM says that the document will be subject to a waiting period of at least 30 days before the agency makes a final decision on the sale.
The District Court has placed a hold on all Chukchi Sea lease-related work until BOEM issues a new record of decision for the sale. As a consequence the agency has been barred from making an approval decision on Shell's Chukchi Sea exploration plan until after a record of decision affirming the sale has been issued. Shell wants to resume its program of exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea in the coming summer.
BOEM says that it received more than 400,000 comments on the draft version of the SEIS.
- ALAN BAILEY
See story in Feb. 22 issue, available online Friday, Feb. 20 at www.PetroleumNews.com