US takes Alaska leasing step

Alaska offshore: US regulators take first steps towards additional leasing

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has begun work on the first steps toward a draft environmental impact statement that could result in the re-opening of oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska.

This environmental assessment is due to be published in early October, BOEM told the US district court in Alaska.

The final EIS is scheduled for publication in early February 2015. After a mandatory 30-day waiting period the Record of Decision will be issued sometime in March.

BOEM’s new environmental analysis comes after the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that BOEM’s estimate of 1 billion barrels in its original final environmental impact statement was “arbitrary and capricious”.

The court prohibited drilling on the leases and prevented BOEM from approving any new exploration or development plans in the meantime.

BOEM notified attorneys for lease holders Shell, Statoil and ConocoPhillips and environmentalist group Earthjustice of its new schedule.

BOEM told the US court that it will be an “expedited process” despite the “labour-intensive” work required.

BOEM also said it has “verified contractor availability for development of updated analyses” for assessing the probability of an oil spill impacting the coastline.

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