Department of the Interior Takes One Step Forward and One Back in the Arctic
Press Release Date: December 1, 2010
Anchorage, AK – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced an updated strategy for the Bureau of Ocean Management, Regulation, and Enforcement’s (BOEMRE) management of offshore oil and gas activities. The announcement contains some good news for the Arctic: the agency will prepare new environmental analyses for Shell’s proposal to drill in the Beaufort Sea in 2011 with opportunity for public review and comment; and it will enter an agreement to collaborate with NOAA on future planning decisions. In addition, however, DOI has included the Chukchi and Beaufort seas as areas to be considered for future leasing in 2012-17 and stated that it will honor existing leases, which could include those purchased under Chukchi Lease Sale 193.
“The Obama administration took some important steps forward today,” according to Oceana Pacific Director, Susan Murray. “By rejecting Shell’s proposal to rush forward, BOEMRE has the opportunity to get better science and learn from what happened in the Gulf before allowing drilling in the Beaufort Sea.”
Today’s announcement builds on one made in March. Then, the administration deferred leasing in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas at least until 2012 and committed to bringing science back to decision-making. That announcement also re-committed to Lease Sale 193 in the Chukchi Sea and proposed opening areas in the lower 48. After that announcement, BOEMRE approved Shell Oil’s plans to conduct exploration drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. In light of the spill in Gulf of Mexico, the Administration announced that it could not approve Shell’s planned drilling and that it would not lease in the lower 48. Then, a federal district court invalidated the environmental analysis underlying Lease Sale 193.
“As the tragedy in the Gulf unfortunately made clear, we are not prepared to drill in the Arctic,” said Oceana Pacific Senior Counsel, Michael LeVine. “Communities, scientists, and courts have told us repeatedly that we lack basic science and are unprepared for a spill. We should not move forward until we can ensure safety, accountability, and protection of the ocean environment.”
Going forward, Oceana is encouraged that BOEMRE will work with NOAA, which has significant scientific expertise and urges the administration to continue to work with Arctic communities and scientists.
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