Shell cancels 2009 Beaufort Sea drilling program

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Dec. 23--Shell Oil Co. canceled its exploratory drilling program for 2009 in Alaska's Beaufort Sea, a region in which the company invested $44 million as recently as 2005.

Instead, Shell said it will focuses on court challenges to its offshore plan. The decision results in a loss of 700 jobs directly related to drilling, more than 100 local support service jobs on the North Slope, and millions of dollars for the region.

Shell also canceled its seismic program in Beaufort for 2009. A company spokesperson said this decision was unrelated to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last month that federal regulators improperly granted Shell permission to drill in the Beaufort Sea.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said that state officials intend to support Shell's petition to the appeals court for a rehearing before the full court.

The US Minerals Management Service environmental assessment determined that exploration "would not significantly affect the quality of the human environment."

However, the court ordered MMS to reconsider how exploratory drilling would affect wildlife and Inupiat Eskimo subsistence hunting and fishing.

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