FWS issues Shell letter of authorization on Chukchi Sea lease

The US Fish & Wildlife Service issued Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. a letter of authorization (LOA) related to the potential disturbance of polar bears and Pacific walrus resulting from the company’s proposal to operate two drilling rigs in the Chukchi Sea this summer.

The letter, which is effective July 1 and expires Nov. 1, is one of the remaining permits that the Royal Dutch Shell PLC subsidiary must obtain to move forward with an exploration program continuing activity it began in 2012 on a federal lease it obtained in OCS Lease Sale 193 in 2008.

Shell has proposed drilling as many as 6 wells from 2 offshore rigs there from July 4 through Oct. 31, FWS’s Alaska office indicated in the June 30 LOA, which allows incidental, but not intentional, takes of game.

It authorizes Shell to proceed, provided the company complies with mitigation, monitoring, and reporting measures under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which include maintaining a 15-mile buffer between the rigs while they are in operation.

Another US Department of the Interior agency, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, continues to review Shell’s drilling permit applications, DOI said. FWS’s action neither approves of nor precludes the company’s proposed activity on its lease this summer, which will be subject to all applicable regulations and conditions, it emphasized.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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