Read RDC's Comment Letter
Comment deadline was November 30, 2010
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) recently released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) addressing concerns raised by the U.S. District Court for Alaska in its July 21 decision regarding Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193. The sale was held in February 2008, producing $2.7 billion in high bids for 487 leases. Although the lease sale decision was challenged in the court, the litigants did not request a preliminary injunction to halt the sale. In July 2010, the court remanded the matter for further NEPA analysis.
BOEM said the SEIS analyzes three specific issues raised by the court. The three concerns are (1) Analyze the environmental impact of natural gas development; (2) determine whether missing information identified by BOEM in the FEIS for Lease Sale 193 was essential or relevant under statute; and (3) determine whether the cost of obtaining the missing information was exorbitant, or the means of doing so unknown. The SEIS will provide the Secretary of the Interior with sufficient information and analysis to make an informed decision. When the process is completed, the Secretary will affirm or change the department’s previous lease sale decision.
Alaska’s offshore waters hold great potential for meeting the nation’s energy needs. In fact, the Chukchi Sea is considered the nation’s most prolific, unexplored offshore basin in North America. BOEM has estimated that Alaska’s OCS has up to 29 billion barrels of oil and 209 trillion cubic feet of natural gas potentially in place. By comparison, total production from the North Slope since 1977 has been 16 billion barrels. Access to Alaska’s OCS resources will be a key element in the economic feasibility of the proposed natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Lower 48.
The SDEIS is posted at:
RDC encourages its members to participate in the process by submitting comments and presenting brief testimony at public hearings scheduled in November. BOEM will accept comments on the SEIS via mail or email through November 29. It has also scheduled a series of public hearings to collect comments in Anchorage and in the communities nearest to the lease sale area. Upon reviewing public comments, BOEM will complete a final SEIS.
Submit comments to:
Regional Director, Alaska OCS Bureau
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement
3801 Centerpoint Drive, Suite 500
Anchorage, Alaska 99503–5820
(“Attn: Chukchi Sea Draft SEIS”)
Note: Please use email address exactly as it appears. Do not add the letter “t” or anything else to the address. Please include “attn: Chukchi Sea Draft SEIS” in the subject line, and your name and return address in the message.
Testify at the hearing:
Anchorage, Tuesday, November 9th at 7 p.m.
Centerpoint Building, 3801 Centerpoint Drive, 1st floor conference room
Points to consider in your comments and verbal testimony:
- Lease Sale 193 should be affirmed as held in 2008. The SEIS provides sufficient information and analysis to support an informed decision affirming Sale 193.
- Rescinding the leases and allowing a de facto moratorium to continue will harm Alaska’s economy and discourage future industry investment, without a corresponding benefit to the environment.
- Sale 193 is critical to Alaska’s future economy and the nation’s long-term energy security.
- The Chukchi OCS is an important future source of U.S. energy supply with up to 29 billion barrels of oil and 209 trillion cubic feet of natural gas potentially in place. The Chukchi Sea is considered the most prospective unexplored offshore basin in the country.
- The goal of Lease Sale 193 was to produce oil from the Alaska OCS and boost domestic production from potential world-class energy deposits. OCS production has the potential to refill the Alaska oil pipeline, which is now operating at one-third of its 1988 peak flow.
- Oil and gas production resulting from Sale 193 will occur under the world’s highest safety and environmental standards. Activities will be governed by stringent lease stipulations identified in the FEIS and SEIS. Numerous mitigation measures, including seasonal operating restrictions, will minimize potential impacts, and conflicts avoidance mechanisms will protect subsistence whaling and other harvest activities.
- Industry has committed to unprecedented provisions for prevention and spill response that go above and beyond what is required by law. These provisions, combined with a stringent permitting process, give Alaskans a high level of confidence that exploration and development can occur safely and without harm to polar bears and other species.
- Drilling in the Arctic offers distinct differences than deepwater exploration and development in the Gulf of Mexico. The pressure encountered in deepwater drilling is multiple times greater than in Alaska where wells would be in very shallow water. There are also major differences in well designs, as well as fundamental differences in the geology of the regions. All of these contrasts should lead BOEM to conclude that exploration should move forward in the Chukchi.
- There has never been a blowout in the Alaska or the Canadian Arctic that resulted in an oil spill. Thirty wells have been drilled in the Beaufort and five in the Chukchi – all without incident. These wells were drilled in the 1980s, utilizing older technology compared to what exists today.
- The North Slope and the offshore are now perhaps the most studied energy basins in America. In the past decade, over 250 studies have been funded in the Arctic, with the majority focused on the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
- According to a University of Alaska study, new OCS production in Alaska would provide an annual average of 35,000 jobs in Alaska with a total payroll of more than $72 billion over the next 50 years.
- New offshore oil and gas development in Alaska would also generate thousands of new high-paying jobs throughout all 50 states – in manufacturing, computer technology, construction and maintenance.
- Demand for energy is continuing to rise and the U.S. requires continued development of America’s oil and gas resources as the nation transitions to the new energy sources of the future.
- Given the impact of high energy prices on Americans and their economy, the U.S. has a moral obligation to develop domestic energy sources, both onshore and offshore.
Comment deadline was November 30, 2010