The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has announced its record of decision, upholding the February 2008 Chukchi Sea lease sale, based on a new supplementary environmental impact statement for the sale.
The SEIS comes as a result of a July 2010 federal District Court for Alaska ruling in an appeal against the lease sale by the Native Village of Point Hope, the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope and 12 environmental organizations. The ruling required BOEMRE to make changes to some aspects of the original EIS for the lease sale and the court banned all lease-related oil and gas exploration activities in the Chukchi Sea unless the changes are made and the lease sale re-affirmed.
“The SEIS, in accordance with the court order, provides additional analysis to supplement the NEPA review originally completed in 2007 for Lease Sale 193 (for the Chukchi Sea)” BOEM said in announcing its record of decision. “Specifically, the bureau analyzed the potential impacts of natural gas development and further reviewed the relevance and importance of information identified as missing or unavailable in the 2007 analysis. The SEIS also analyzes the environmental impacts of a hypothetical very large oil spill scenario following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Shell, ConocoPhillips and Statoil all purchased leases in the 2008 lease sale. All three companies are pursuing active Chukchi Sea exploration programs, with Shell wanting to start drilling in the Chukchi in 2012. BOEMRE, BOEM’s predecessor agency, placed its review of Shell’s Chukchi Sea exploration plan on hold as a consequence of the court ruling.
“Secretary Salazar’s positive record of decision affirms Lease Sale 193 and clears the way for BOEM to conclude the review of Shell’s Chukchi Sea exploration plan,” said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith in response to the BOEM announcement. “We believe the Chukchi plan we submitted in May of this year is technically and scientifically sound and we look forward to exploring this critical part of our Alaska portfolio in 2012.”
“With today’s decision to finalize an illegal lease sale in waters that have been my people’s traditional hunting grounds for thousands of years, President Obama tells the Inupiat people of Alaska’s Arctic coast that our culture is disposable,” said Caroline Cannon, president of the Native Village of Point Hope. “Because without adequate information about the ways in which the Chukchi Sea’s marine ecosystem functions and without a proven plan to clean up an oil spill in this ice-covered, extreme environment, oil drilling in our Arctic waters will spell disaster for our survival as a people.”
See story in Oct. 9 issue of Petroleum News, available to subscribers online at 11 a.m., Friday, Oct. 7 at www.PetroleumNews.com