Public Comment Period Opens Up For Shell’s Chukchi Plan

If you want to comment on Shell’s plan to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer, now is your chance. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced Friday that it considers Shell’s latest exploration plan and supporting documents sufficient enough to begin an official review. The determination kicks off a public comment period that lasts through the end of April.

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Shell’s multi-year plan calls for returning to the Chukchi Sea with two rigs to drill up to six wells, all into its Burger Prospect. That’s in shallow water about 70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright. The company can only operate during the summer and has to pull its equipment out before fall ice returns.

Shell drilled one partial well in the area in 2012 but was not allowed to penetrate the petroleum layer because its containment dome was inoperable. It was one of a series of mishaps that marred the season.

The earlier plan called for a dozen support vessels. This time, Shell says it expects to have about 30, including tugs, anchor handlers and ice-management vessels. Although Shell expects to again use Dutch Harbor as a resupply base, it proposes to keep its well containment barges and tugs moored in Kotzebue Sound.

Federal regulators now have 30 days to consider Shell’s exploration plan.

Environmental groups issued a volley of critical statements today, calling Arctic drilling unsafe and the regulatory process rushed.