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October 26, 2011 --- Vol. 17, No. 92October 2011

Court lifts Chukchi Sea exploration injunction

The U.S. District Court in Alaska has lifted its injunction against lease related activities in the Chukchi Sea, so that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management can proceed with its review of Shell’s Chukchi Sea exploration plan. The court imposed the injunction in 2010 as part of a ruling in an appeal against the environmental impact statement for the 2008 Chukchi Sea lease sale in which Shell purchased its leases. Shell wants to drill up to six wells in the Chukchi Sea, starting in the summer open water season of 2012 and submitted an exploration plan to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, predecessor agency to BOEM, in May for approval. BOEMRE had placed its review of the plan on hold because of the court injunction.

On Oct. 3 BOEM submitted to the court a new supplementary environment statement and an accompanying record of decision affirming the 2008 lease sale — the court had ordered the Department of the Interior to correct three deficiencies in the original lease sale EIS, with the injunction to remain in place pending a new lease sale record of decision.

“The three concerns (about the EIS) previously expressed by the court appear to have been addressed,” wrote District Judge Ralph Beistline in today’s order. “Therefore, federal defendants are now permitted to act upon the proposed exploration plans pending before them and the injunction is hereby lifted.”

However, the appeal over the lease sale is not yet over, since the plaintiffs in the case can still challenge the new SEIS. Any new complaint is to be filed on Nov. 16, with responses to be filed by Dec. 21.

—Alan Bailey

See story in the Oct. 30 edition of Petroleum News, which will be online Friday Oct. 28 at 11 a.m. at www.petroleumnews.com.

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