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March 04, 2011 --- Vol. 17, No. 19March 2011

BOEMRE opts to assess large Chukchi Sea oil spill

Instead of submitting a supplemental environmental impact statement for the 2008 Chukchi Sea lease sale to the Alaska District Court today, as originally planned, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement has opted to add a very large oil spill assessment to the EIS, BOEMRE has announced. In July 2010 the court ordered BOEMRE to revise the original EIS for the lease sale in response to an appeal against the sale by the Native Village of Point Hope, the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope and 12 environmental organizations. And the court has banned Chukchi Sea lease related activities until the appeal is resolved.

In October BOEMRE published a draft SEIS for public review, saying that the new SEIS had addressed the deficiencies that the court had listed in its July order. But, with BOEMRE subsequently receiving more than 150,000 comments on the SEIS, the agency has spent several months working on the document since the public comment period ended. The agency had told the court that it would file the new SEIS today, but instead has decided to add a new oil spill analysis to the document.

“Due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, many commenters requested an analysis that takes into account the possibility of a blowout during exploration,” wrote David Glazer of the U.S. Department of Justice in a status report submitted to the court today. “After reviewing those comments, BOEMRE has determined that it is appropriate to update its spill risk assessment and provide a very large oil spill (“VLOS”) analysis from an exploration well blowout as part of this SEIS.”

BOEMRE now anticipates releasing a new draft SEIS by late May for public review, with the public review period ending in early July and final record of decision on the new SEIS likely in late October, Glazer wrote.

See story in March 13 issue, available online by 11 a.m. Friday, March 11, at www.PetroleumNews.com

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