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May 23, 2014 --- Vol. 20, No. 32May 2014

BOEM anticipates new decision on Chukchi Sea lease sale by next March

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has told the federal District Court in Alaska that it anticipates issuing a new record of decision for the 2008 Chukchi Sea lease sale in March 2015, after the completion of a new supplementary environmental impact statement, or SEIS, for the sale. In a status report filed with the court today, the agency said that, despite having already started work on the SEIS and despite working as expeditiously as possible on the document, several months of effort will be required to complete the document. At the core of the required work will be new estimates of the potential for oil spills resulting from Chukchi Sea exploration and development, and an evaluation of the potential impacts of those spills, BOEM says.

The agency says that it anticipates publishing a draft SEIS early in October 2014. Following a 45-public comment period and consequent revisions to the document, the agency would publish a final SEIS in February 2015, with the record of decision for the lease sale following after a mandatory 30-day waiting period.

The District Court ordered a rework of the environmental impact statement for the lease sale, following a January 2014 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 9th Circuit, upholding an appeal against the validity of the lease sale environmental impact statement. As a consequence of the 9 Circuit decision and the continuation of the case in District Court, BOEM has suspended the leases sold in the 2008 lease sale until the agency issues a new record of decision. Shell, ConocoPhillips, Statoil and other companies purchased leases in the sale. Shell started drilling in its leases in 2012 and hopes to restart drilling in the summer of 2015.

- Alan Bailey

See story in June 1 issue, available online at 11 a.m. Friday, May 30, at www.PetroleumNews.com

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