U.S. Sen. Mark Begich yesterday pushed back on his Democratic colleagues in the Senate, calling their appeal to delay Arctic development shortsighted, misinformed and misguided.
“I’m disappointed – although not surprised – to see several Senate Democrats request that the government delay oil and gas leasing in the Arctic and order a review of existing operations,” Begich said.
“If they had done their homework, they would know the Department of the Interior has already conducted a thorough review of Arctic offshore oil and gas operations and regulations earlier this year, and the department is busy putting additional safeguards in place.
“Rather than continuing to be short-sighted naysayers and resorting to tired, partisan talking points, I would hope more senators would look at the long-term economic and national security benefits of developing the Arctic’s energy resources.”
Six Democratic members of Congress recently sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, asking her to forgo leasing in Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in 2016/2017, to review existing programs, and to delay any permitting pending that review.
In the letter they said:
“We write to ask the Department of Interior to delay future oil and gas lease sales and permitting in the Arctic Ocean, including the proposed lease sale 237, until a thorough re- evaluation of the environmental and safety risks associated with Arctic drilling activities can be completed. The myriad problems faced last year by Shell Oil Company as it attempted to drill exploration wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas demonstrated the unpredictability, harsh conditions, and heightened potential for human error that characterize any industrial activity in the Arctic Ocean. More thorough scientific evaluation, increased response capability, and a balanced assessment of risks and benefits arc essential to establishing smart policies and standards for industrial activity in this unique area.”
Shell Arctic plans
Earlier this month Shell announced plans to go back to Arctic drilling in the Chukchi Sea, offshore Alaska, in July next year.
The oil giant last year put its Arctic aspirations on ice after it had encountered several setbacks such as its inability to obtain certification of its containment vessel, the Arctic Challenger, on a timely basis; the deployment difficulty of the Arctic Challenger’s containment dome; and serious marine transport issues associated with both of Shell’s two drilling rigs, the Kulluk which went aground off Alaska in December last year after breaking free from tugboats leading it to Seattle for maintenance, and the Noble Discoverer which nearly grounded in Dutch Harbor in July last year.
However, according to the company’s 2014 Integrated Operations Plan For the Chukchi Sea, Shell ensured it was ready to try again. The company plans to deploy the Noble Discoverer drillship for drilling operations at the Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea during the period of July through October, demobilizing from the area by late October into November.
Offshore Energy Today Staff, December 17, 2013