Wednesday, April 01, 2015

US Approves Arctic Oil and Gas Drilling Off Coast of Alaska

Arctic offshore oil and gas exploration in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska will be opened to leasing after a legal decision and production estimate were completed, the US Department of Interior said in a statement.

“After thorough environmental analysis and substantial opportunity for public input, the Department of the Interior today issued a Record of Decision affirming Chukchi Sea OCS Oil and Gas Lease Sale 193 and the remaining oil and gas leases issued in 2008 as a result of the sale,” the statement, issued on Tuesday, stated.

The Record of Decision enables the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to begin reviewing energy companies’ exploration plans for the Chukchi Sea. Any plan would have to go through a period of public comment and environmental analysis followed by approval from multiple US federal agencies.

In February 2015, the US Interior Department released proposed regulations for oil and gas drilling in the outer continental shelf in the Arctic. The proposed standards include environmental regulations as well as criteria through all steps of the extraction process, from drilling to transportation.

Environmental organizations are against Arctic drilling in the Chukchi Sea given the region’s unique environment and technical difficulties of extracting oil and gas from offshore Arctic fields.

Despite regulations on offshore oil and gas drilling, the United States has experience a number of maritime oil and gas disasters, including the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the 1989 Exxon Valdez crash in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, which left behind long-term environmental destruction and economic hardship.


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