Murkowski: Revised EIS Should Help Resolve Challenges in Chukchi, Allow Exploration to Move Forward

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today welcomed the release by the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) of a revised supplemental environmental impact statement for oil and natural gas development in the Chukchi Sea. 

“It’s my hope that this additional analysis on the potential impacts on the region will help resolve the legal challenges that have held up resource exploration in the Chukchi Sea,” Murkowski said. “There’s still a lot of process yet to occur, but this is a step in the right direction.”

In 2008, companies bid $2.7 billion to lease 2.8 million acres of the Chukchi Sea, about 70 miles off Alaska’s northwest coast. Shell Oil was the sale’s high bidder at $2.1 billion.

Exploration and development of those leases, however, have been held up by a legal challenge from a coalition of environmental groups who argued the federal government failed to consider the environmental effect of natural gas development – although it did look at the potential impact of oil production on the region. In 2010, the lawsuit resulted in a federal judge in Anchorage ordering BOEMRE to revise its analysis.  

On Thursday, the judge ordered BOEMRE to complete its new analysis of the Chukchi leases by Oct. 3.

 “The revised EIS, along with the new deadline, improves the chances that Shell will be able to explore the Chukchi next summer,” said Murkowski, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “That in itself is good news.”