Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The federal agency that regulates oil and gas drilling offshore has released a new analysis of development in the Chukchi Sea. The public comment period opened Friday on the latest plan. It’s a supplemental environmental impact statement ordered by the courts, which said the initial EIS left out some important elements.
The new statement had to look at the impact of natural gas development, not just oil and had to determine whether missing information was relevant to the drilling proposal.
A group of 15 conservation and Alaska Native groups filed a lawsuit challenging the original environmental analysis. Environmental group EarthJustice represented the plaintiffs. Anchorage-based staff attorney Erik Grafe says they were hoping to see more information from this new supplemental analysis.
Grafe complains that the information gaps pointed out by the conservation and native groups have still not been filled-in.
But the Alaska regional director for the Bureau of Ocean Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the agency that regulates offshore drilling, disagrees. John Gall in Anchorage says they did exactly what the district court judge laid out.
Gall says more scientific study and research will still go on in the Chukchi since it’s considered to be a “frontier area,” but that the judge did not mandate the agency to go further into the EIS.
The supplemental environmental impact statement says natural gas will have the same impacts of oil drilling. It also says no more new information is needed to move forward.
The public comment period on the Chukchi development lease sale is now open, and runs through the end of November.
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