BOEM plans to prepare SEIS to comply with Chukchi Sea court order

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management intends to develop a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) to help resolve production estimate deficiencies a federal court found in its predecessor agency’s original Chukchi Sea crude oil development plan, the US Department of Justice said in its first bimonthly report required under an order remanding the matter to a lower court.

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Jan. 22 that the US Minerals Management Service’s estimate of 1 million bbl total of economic recoverable crude beneath the Chukchi Sea in a final EIS leading up to OCS Lease Sale 193 on Feb. 6, 2008, was arbitrary and capricious (OGJ Online, Feb. 3, 2014).

When BOEM began to take steps to correct deficiencies that the court’s order cited, it became apparent that changes in production volume estimates would require certain changes and updates throughout the original EIS, DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in the report it filed May 23 in US District Court for Alaska.

It noted that while scoping is not required for an SEIS, and BOEM determined that none was required given the Ninth Circuit Court order’s specificity, the US Department of the Interior agency plans to consult with other government agencies and hold public hearings during its preparation.

The remand report also outlined a timetable under which BOEM estimates that an updated oil spill risk analysis trajectory runs and calculation of conditional and combined probabilities for the Chukchi Sea would be completed by August.

Publication of a draft SEIS would occur in October, triggering a 45-day public comment period before a final SEIS’s tentative publication in early February 2015 and a record of decision is issued in March, it indicated.

Alaska’s two US senators said on May 23 that the report was an encouraging sign that DOI is working expeditiously to get Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. back to work on Chukchi Sea leases it acquired in the 2008 sale.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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