Federal Government Again Backs Risky Offshore Oil Leasing in the Arctic | Oceana

Federal Government Again Backs Risky Offshore Oil Leasing in the Arctic

Press Release Date: February 18, 2015

Location: Juneau, Alaska


Anna Baxter | email: abaxter@oceana.org
Anna Baxter

Today, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released its Final Second Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193. The supplement was prepared in response to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in January 2014 invalidating, for the second time, the EIS underlying the decision to hold Lease Sale 193. The announcement comes two weeks after President Obama permanently withdrew important areas in the Arctic Ocean from leasing, and Shell, despite the enormous problems and expense it has incurred, committed again to pursuing exploration on leases purchased in this sale.

In the Final Supplement, BOEM predicts a 75 percent chance of a major spill happening as a result of activities on the leases sold in Lease Sale 193. Such a spill would be nearly impossible to contain and clean up in the remote environment and could have significant impacts to the subsistence resources and other wildlife that depend on the Chukchi Sea.

Completion of the EIS process is one of the necessary steps before formal review of Shell’s proposed exploration in the Chukchi Sea can begin. After years of failure, Shell has again proposed exploration drilling in the Chukchi Sea. Formal review of that proposal is on hold until the government issues a Record of Decision, which will complete the EIS process. The Record of Decision cannot be issued until at least 30 days after publication of the Final Supplement.

The Final Supplement is available here: http://www.boem.gov/ak193/.

Michael LeVine, Pacific Senior Counsel for Oceana, issued the following statement in response to the release:

“Today’s release reflects bad policy and a broken process. The decision to hold Lease Sale 193 was poorly planned and poorly justified in 2008, and the renewed commitment to the sale is no better. Our government should not continue to provide incentives for risky and expensive activities for which companies clearly are not prepared.

As we unfortunately learned in 2012, Shell is not ready for the Arctic. Despite its failures, Shell continues to push expanded plans for exploration drilling, and the government appears willing to bend over backwards to make it possible by rushing its analysis and refusing to consider foregoing the leases owned by Shell and other companies.

Ultimately, if the government were to fully and fairly evaluate the risks and benefits, it would decide to not offer leases now in the Chukchi Sea.”