Environments, Alaska Native Groups Challenge Salazar’s Chukchi Lease Sale Conclusion

Alaska Native and environmental groups are back in court challenging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s conclusion that a 2008 petroleum lease sale in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast meets federal environmental law.

Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. spent $2.1 billion on Chukchi leases and hopes to drill during the open water season next summer.

Salazar last month said the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had corrected flaws noted by a federal judge in a lawsuit.

Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe says in a prepared statement that federal scientists acknowledge big gaps in what they know about Arctic Ocean basic features.

Grafe says Salazar has incorrectly concluded he didn’t need the information to open the Chukchi to petroleum development.

An Interior spokeswoman says the department would have no comment.

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