The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a 45-day call for information and nominations related to a possible targeted oil and gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea offshore Alaska during 2016.
The call is the first step in a region-specific, targeted approach the US Department of the Interior agency is using for Alaskan offshore oil and gas leasing, it said. The approach differs from the area-wide leasing which BOEM uses in the Gulf of Mexico, it noted.
Targeted leasing for what would be Outer Continental Shelf Lease Sale No. 237 is designed to result in a more focused configuration offering areas with the most promising oil and gas resource potential while protecting environmentally sensitive habitats and important social and cultural uses, including subsistence hunting and fishing activity, BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau said.
“Any future leasing in the Chukchi Sea must be focused on areas that can be developed safely and responsibly while also protecting sensitive habitats and places that are important to Alaska Native hunters and fishermen,” he maintained.
Consistent with the targeted approach, which the 2012-17 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program established, BOEM said the call asks oil and gas producers to identify blocks in the Chukchi Sea Program Area off Alaska’s northwestern coast which appear promising.
What BOEM seeks
BOEM asks companies to rank their interest in particular areas according to five levels of priority ranging from “critical interest” to “no interest”, and provide detailed information about the basis for its level of interest in any nominated areas, including a summary of the relevant geologic, geophysical, and economic information.
The call also asks all interested parties for comments and information about other information relevant to BOEM’s analysis of areas for potential leasing, the agency said. These include geological conditions such as bottom hazards; archaeological sites on the seabed or near the shore; multiple uses of the area, including navigation and subsistence; and other socioeconomic, biological, or environmental information.
Responding to the announcement, Cindy Shogan, the Alaska Wilderness League’s executive director, urged the Obama administration not to move forward with this and another possible Arctic Ocean lease sale, and determine whether the oil and gas industry can operate safely there instead.
“Shell Oil provides the perfect example of why we must pause before approving any new leases in Arctic waters,” she said. “[Its] long list of setbacks and failures during its 2012 Arctic drilling campaign, combined with the reality that there is no effective way to clean up an oil spill in Arctic conditions or infrastructure in the region to support an adequately safe drilling or cleanup effort, provides overwhelming evidence that the oil and gas industry is not prepared to operate in the Arctic Ocean.”
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