US Launches Review of Shell Arctic Drilling Plan

US Launches Review of Shell Arctic Drilling PlanUS Launches Review of Shell Arctic Drilling Plan

The Obama administration on Friday launched a formal, 30-day review of Shell’s broad plan for boring up to six exploratory oil wells in Arctic waters near Alaska, even as the company moves drilling rigs and equipment to the area.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management now has until May 10 to decide whether to approve, deny or require revisions to the Shell Oil Co. plan, after officially deeming it complete and ready for review on Friday, Fuel Fix reported Saturday.

The move comes less than two weeks after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell validated the government’s 2008 auction of the Chukchi Sea oil leases Shell is now targeting -a decision essential to possible drilling later this year.

And it follows months of informal talks between bureau regulators and Shell about the company’s hopes of resuming an Arctic drilling campaign it halted in 2012, after one of its rigs ran aground on the rocky shore of an Alaskan island.

The public now has two brief opportunities to weigh in on the proposal: 10 days to comment on environmental issues that should be analyzed in light of Shell’s drilling blueprint and 21 days to comment on the exploration plan itself. The ocean energy bureau is bound by statute to make its decision on the plan within 30 days.

“The Interior Department is rushing an important process through and not giving the public enough time to review and comment in order for Shell to be able to drill this summer,” said Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.

This is the fourth time federal regulators have deemed Shell’s submitted Arctic exploration plans complete and ready for a formal review.

An ocean energy bureau approval of Shell’s Chukchi Sea exploration plan is essential for the company to resume drilling wells into its Burger prospect about 75 miles off the Alaska coastline. But it is far from the final required authorization. The company also must win individual drilling permits from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, get government approvals for the effects marine mammals and have its rigs certified.