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April 19, 2007 --- Vol. 13, No. 36April 2007

North Slope groups appeal decision on Shell’s Beaufort plan

The North Slope Borough, the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission and the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope have jointly appealed to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Board of Land Appeals against the U.S. Minerals Management Service’s February decision to approve Shell Offshore’s Beaufort Sea exploration plan. That plan envisages the drilling of three wells at the Sivulliq prospect, on the west side of Camden Bay, using two drill ships, as well as site survey work and some geotechnical boring.

In addition to the work done under its Beaufort Sea exploration plan, Shell hopes to carry out some seismic surveys in the Beaufort Sea during the summer 2007 open water season.

The North Slope groups appealing the MMS decision say that MMS should require a full-scale environmental impact statement for the proposed exploration activities.

“Instead, MMS settled for an abbreviated impact assessment and concluded that Shell’s exploration plan would have no significant impacts — even though MMS acknowledged it lacked sufficient data to reach that conclusion for some wildlife species,” the groups said.

The appeal comes on the heels of a report that a coalition of Native American and conservation groups has also filed an appeal with the Board of Land Appeals against Shell’s Beaufort Sea plan.

In a February interview with Petroleum News, Rick Fox, Shell’s asset manager for Alaska, described some of the environmental mitigation measures that Shell plans in association with its Beaufort Sea activities.

Those measures include the deployment of passive acoustic arrays at intervals out from the coast, the use of about 70 locally recruited marine mammal observers, the use of aerial wildlife monitoring and the operation of communications centers, manned by local residents, in all North Slope villages. The company has also commissioned a new oil spill response vessel to support its Beaufort Sea operations.

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