A public meeting between representatives of Buccaneer Energy and concerned Homer citizens turned contentious Wednesday night, with many people wondering why the company’s ‘Endeavor’ jack-up rig is still parked at the Homer harbor nearly two months after its arrival. Company officials say the rig will soon be moving to drill in the Cosmopolitan Unit near Anchor Point but the State of Alaska says that’s not likely to happen.
It was a packed house at the Best Western Bidarka In in Homer Wednesday night, as locals gathered to ask pointed questions concerning Buccaneer Energy’s activities in the area. The conversation quickly turned heated, with some audience members leveling accusations instead of questions One point of contention Tuesday night was permits – specifically, whether or not Buccaneer has the necessary permit from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to drill in the Cosmopolitan Unit.
Buccaneer Vice President Mark Landt said the company had filed with DEC for an amendment to its blowout contingency plan, or ‘C’ plan, permit that would allow it to drill past an October 31st deadline. The company, he said, was expecting to be able to move the Endeavor into the Cosmopolitan Unit to begin drilling “no later than mid-November.”
“Buccaneer has asked us to consider what we would call a minor or routine amendment and we have denied that request,” said Graham Wood, section manager in the DEC, adding that the amendment will now have to go through the full public process.
That letter of denial was sent to Buccaneer October 19th and as of right now, Buccaneer has no approval from DEC to drill at Cosmopolitan. Wood said the public process that Buccaneer will have to now go through will likely take at least 85 to 90 days.
Meanwhile, the City of Homer is trying to figure out what will happen with the Endeavor, which arrived at the Homer harbor August 24th and was originally supposed to be in Kachemak Bay for only eight days. A series of delays, mostly involving needed repairs and upgrades to the rig, has caused it to stay and a severe windstorm in mid-September forced its operators to put the legs down, something that has caused controversy over whether the Endeavor’s presence violates the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area plan.
At the last Homer City Council meeting October 22nd, Homer City Manager Walt Wrede said Buccaneer still has not received authorization from the Coast Guard to move the Endeavor and now, the City of Homer is preparing for the possibility that the rig may end up at the harbor all winter long.
“From Buccaneer’s point of view, that is the preferred alternative,” Wrede said. ”It’s much much easier and much more efficient to work on that thing if it’s here, but the legs down issue has to be resolved,” he said.
The size and triangular shape of the rig make it difficult, maybe impossible, to store at the Deepwater Dock without the legs down. Plus, the presence of the rig at the dock is interfering with normal harbor business.
“We’re actually turning commerce away, other vessels that would like to dock,” Wrede said.
Buccaneer Energy had planned another meeting Wednesday night at McNeil Canyon Elementary School, focused on its plans for land based drilling at West Eagle, an area 21 miles east of Homer.