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April 03, 2014 --- Vol. 20, No. 20April 2014

Shell seeks urgency in resolving Chukchi lease sale appeal

In a filing submitted to the federal District Court in Alaska yesterday Shell said that it opposes any delay in resolving an appeal against the 2008 Chukchi Sea lease sale in which the company purchased leases. The company asked the court to accept an offer by the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE, to rework the environmental impact statement for the lease sale, to rectify issues identified by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

In January, in a majority opinion, a panel of three 9th Circuit judges upheld the appeal and remanded it to the Alaska District court. On March 17 District Court Judge Ralph Beistline told the parties in the case to submit a report by March 31, indicating how they wished to proceed with the case.

But, while BSEE and Shell subsequently submitted a proposal for a rework of the environmental impact statement, lawyers for plaintiffs in the appeal have asked for more time to consult with their clients over the contents of a report to the District Court. Shell says that a delay is unnecessary and could adversely impact plans to drill in the Chukchi Sea in 2015.

“Because the Arctic drilling season is so short, every day of it counts,” Shell told the court.

BSEE’s proposal would “provide the best approach for a thorough yet expeditious remand process that would preserve the possibility of a 2015 drilling season,” the company wrote.

Shell said that it had already lost the 2014 Chukchi Sea drilling season as a result of the appeal and that the company had begun planning for the 2015 season “in the event the agency (BSEE) re-affirms the sale.”

—Alan Bailey

See story in April 6 issue, available online at 11 a.m., Friday, April 4 at www.PetroleumNews.com

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