The Native village of Point Hope, the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope and 12 environmental organizations, plaintiffs in an appeal in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska against the February 2008 Chukchi Sea outer continental shelf oil and gas lease sale, have expressed concern to the court about delays in resolving the appeal, given Shell’s plan to drill in the Chukchi Sea in 2010 in leases issued in the 2008 lease sale.
The U.S. Minerals Management Service has said that it intends to make a decision by Nov. 19 on Shell’s Chukchi Sea exploration plan, the plaintiffs say.
The briefing schedule in the case is currently on hold, pending the issuance by MMS of an amended environmental assessment for the lease sale — the amended assessment could impact the district court case. MMS is preparing the amended assessment in response to a May 11 directive from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, as a consequence of a ruling by that court over an appeal against the MMS 2007 to 2012 outer continental shelf lease sale program.
“Plaintiffs believe that if the federal defendants continue to advance toward decisions to implement Sale 193 (Chukchi Sea) leases and authorize drilling in 2010, it may become necessary to lift the stay and reinitiate the briefing schedule soon, even if the Department of Interior has not completed its review of the five year leasing program, either by agreement with defendants or by motion,” plaintiffs told the court Nov. 13.
See story in Nov. 22 issue, available online at noon, Friday Nov. 20 at www.PetroleumNews.com