Senate Dems Press Interior to Back Off Arctic Oil Drilling

A picture taken on April 7, 2011 shows Russian LUKOIL ice-resistant fixed platform LSP-1, built at the Astrakhansky Korabel shipyard, intended to drill and operate wells and collect and pre-treat reservoir content at Korchagin's oil field in the Russian sector of the Caspian Sea some 180 km outside Astrakhan. The fields productivity of oil and gas condensate will peak at 2.3 million tonnes oil and 1.2 bcm gas per year. 
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Ben Geman
Dec. 16, 2013, 7:23 a.m.

Six Sen­ate Demo­crats want the In­teri­or De­part­ment to sus­pend plans to sell more oil-drilling leases in Arc­tic wa­ters un­til there’s a “thor­ough ree­valu­ation” of en­vir­on­ment­al risks.

A let­ter made pub­lic Monday asks In­teri­or Sec­ret­ary Sally Jew­ell to sus­pend plans to auc­tion new leases in the Chuk­chi Sea off Alaska’s north­ern coast in 2016—which is the next sched­uled sale of drilling blocs in the re­gion—and sub­sequent sales, too.

The let­ter to Jew­ell from Demo­crat­ic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Ore­gon, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and four col­leagues points to Shell’s mis­hap-laden 2012 ef­fort to be­gin ex­plor­a­tion off Alaska’s coast.

“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,” states the let­ter, which is also from Sens. Shel­don White­house, D-R.I., Bar­bara Box­er, D-Cal­if., Ed­ward Mar­key, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

In­teri­or has beefed up over­sight since the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mex­ico, and is also craft­ing a set of Arc­tic-spe­cif­ic drilling safety stand­ards.

Click here to read the let­ter.

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