Interior Department Holding Hearing About Offshore Oil, Gas Leasing

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

The Interior Department is holding a hearing Friday night in Anchorage to talk about the proposed outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing program for  2012 through 2017. The program could include lease sales for the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas and Cook Inlet in Alaska.

Shell Oil already has lease holdings in the Arctic Ocean from a previous federal sale. But the company hasn’t been able to explore those leases because of numerous setbacks with the permitting process and in court. Shell will testify at the hearing tonight. Spokesperson Curtis Smith says it’s too early to say whether the company would be interested in another lease sale in the area. But they want the five-year plan to go forward.

Shell canceled its planned exploration program in the Arctic ocean for 2011 and is now in the process of reassessing for 2012. Smith says he expects a lot of people will testify in favor of offshore development on Friday. But Environmental groups opposed to the offshore plan will also be well represented. Robert Thompson is with Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands or REDOIL. He says the biggest concern for him is the potential for an oil spill in Arctic waters.

The hearing on the five-year plan takes place tonight at 7pm at the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management Regulation and Enforcement office on Centerpoint drive in Anchorage.

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