Decisions Regarding Alaska Drilling Expected Soon

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

The head of the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling says decisions are coming soon about whether oil companies can drill off Alaska’s coast.  Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, says both the companies and the groups fighting offshore drilling deserve to know what will happen.  Bromwich made his comments Sunday on the C-SPAN interview program “Newsmakers.”

Bromwich says the main concern is how to clean up oil spills in the Arctic, where conditions are dramatically different than in the Gulf of Mexico, site of the BP oil well blowout last April.  Bromwich says icy waters pose unique challenges, as does the Arctic’s remoteness, far from Coast Guard stations and clean-up infrastructure.

After the BP blowout, the Interior Department put on-hold Shell Oil Company’s exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Bromwich has met with Alaska Native and environmental groups concerned about the affects of offshore drilling, and with the companies who want to operate there.

BOEM will conduct a public hearing on environmental concerns from a 2008 lease sale in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea at 7:00 p.m., Tuesday evening, in Anchorage.

The former Minerals Management Service in February 2008 conducted a lease sale in the Chukchi off Alaska’s northwest coast, receiving high bids totaling $2.7 billion and issuing 487 leases.

Environmental and Alaska Native groups sued and in July a federal court judge said environmental information was lacking.

The BOEM will collect testimony on the effect of natural gas development, on whether missing information was essential, and whether the cost of obtaining the missing information is exorbitant.

In the meantime, Shell launched a new ad campaign in major East coast publications today touting job creation and their spill response plans in the push for Arctic drilling.

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