Murkowski Seeks Lease Extensions for Shell

Last summer, Shell asked the government to extend its offshore drilling leases in the Arctic. Today, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski pressed Shell’s case to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a Senate hearing. Murkowski says Shell needs certainty to continue to invest billions of dollars in its Arctic operations.

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“Because of this very short window, a 75-day Arctic drilling season, and the difficulties and the delays and the legal challenges that are all out there, that Shell has endured for the past decade, there really are not enough drilling seasons remaining for Shell to complete more than a handful of exploration wells before the Chukchi lease portfolio expires,” Murkowski said.

Jewell says the clock on Shell’s 10-year leases in the Chukchi Sea was stopped for a period when a court ruled the government had to redo its environmental impact statement. Jewell says her department is still considering Shell’s request for a five-year suspension of the lease clock.

“We took our resources and focused them, as we were requested to do, on helping Shell move forward for this drilling season. I also know that we are actively working with them on suspensions and I think they can expect any answer in the relatively near future,” Jewell said.

Oceana and other environmental groups oppose giving Shell more time on their leases. They say the reasons for Shell’s lack of progress were known from outset, like the harsh conditions and the Native whaling season, or were of Shell’s own making.