The US Department of the Interior issued a record of decision reaffirming US Outer Continental Shelf Lease Sale No. 193 in the Chukchi Sea and remaining oil and gas leases issued in 2008 as a result.
DOI’s Mar. 31 action means its US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management can begin to formally review a leaseholder’s Chukchi Sea exploration plan, which includes public engagement and additional environmental analyses. ConocoPhillips, Statoil ASA, and Royal Dutch Shell PLC acquired leases in the sale.
BOEM, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and other federal agencies will need to review and approve activities before any exploration activity can occur, officials emphasized. The ROD came after thorough environmental analysis and substantial opportunities for public input, they indicated.
“I am very grateful for the work that BOEM professionals put into this extensive analysis, and for the input we received from our stakeholders throughout the entire process,” BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper said.
BOME’s predecessor agency, the US Minerals Management Service, published Lease Sale 193’s original environmental impact statement analysis in 2007, but subsequent lawsuits and federal court decisions remanded the sale back to BOEM for further analysis.
DOI affirmed the leases it issued in that sale in a 2011 ROD as it met a federal district court’s deadline to issue a supplemental EIS that addressed concerns the court raised about the original National Environmental Policy Act analysis (OGJ Online, Oct. 4, 2011).
The most recent court decision, from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in January 2014, specifically addressed BOEM’s estimates of production levels from OCS oil fields that might be discovered in the Chukchi Sea.
DOI said BOEM used the best available data to estimate the highest amount of production that could reasonably result from Sale No. 193 and incorporated that information into a second supplemental EIS that was published in February (OGJ Online, Feb. 13, 2015).
“Working closely with our partner agencies at the federal, state and local levels, our analysts brought to bear the best science available to produce a careful and robust analysis,” said Janice Schneider, assistant US secretary for land and minerals management, who signed the ROD.
BSEE, which suspended all leases from the original sale on the court’s 2014 remand, lifted the suspensions on Mar. 31 when DOI issued the latest ROD.
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