BOEM increases prediction on Chukchi Sea oil & gas lease sale

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released the draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) that predicts a higher exploration and production scenario than before for the Chukchi Sea Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Lease Sale 193.

BOEM says the SEIS predictions of a higher exploration and production scenario than previous analyses is based on a better understanding about existing geologic structures in the region as well as improved information about where industry operators are likely to focus their development activities.

According to BOEM, they prepared the draft SEIS using the best available science, and working in close consultation with Alaska Native tribes, federal partner agencies, state and local governments, stakeholders and the public.

The analysis in the Draft SEIS issued on 31 October, uses the best available data – including actual bidding data – to estimate the highest amount of production that could reasonably result from Lease Sale 193.

The revised analysis is in accordance with the 24 April 2014, remand order of the US District Court for the District of Alaska. The original EIS for Lease Sale 193 was published in 2007 and the sale was conducted in 2008.

“After a robust and thorough process, BOEM has prepared a Draft Supplemental EIS that addresses the issues identified by the court regarding the Chukchi Sea Lease Sale 193,” says BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank. “In the analysis released, BOEM used a new exploration and development scenario to evaluate the potential environmental effects of oil and gas activities associated with Lease Sale 193. We look forward to receiving additional public input as we continue to take a balanced approach to the safe and responsible energy development in the region.”

Subsequent legal challenges and federal court decisions remanded the sale back to BOEM for further analysis, specifically related to the agency’s estimates of production levels from likely offshore oil fields that might be developed in the Chukchi Sea. BOEM published a notice of intent to prepare a SEIS on 20 June 2014.

Earlier this year, Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued a suspension of operations for all Chukchi leases issued in Lease Sale 193, which stops the lease term from running while BOEM completes this supplemental environmental review. The suspension remains in effect until BOEM completes its environmental review, as directed by the court.

The notice of availability for the draft supplemental EIS will publish in the Federal Register on 7 November, initiating a 45-day public comment period, which will end 22 December. During this time, BOEM will hold seven public hearings in Alaska, will conduct government-to-government consultation meetings with Alaska Native tribes, and will also accept public comments.

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