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Chukchi environmental report delayed

Patti Epler | Jan 24, 2011

The federal government says it’s fallen behind in efforts to complete a final environmental impact statement for a controversial oil and gas lease sale in the Chukchi Sea.

The statement was due to be finished Jan. 21. Instead, a status report filed with the U.S. District Court in Anchorage doesn’t give a date for the environmental impact statement to be released, but says the government will file another status report by Feb. 25.

In 2008, the government sold about $2.6 billion in leases to a number of oil companies, although Royal Dutch Shell was the predominant bidder. But the lease sale was challenged by Native organizations and some environmental groups on the grounds that the original statement didn’t adequately consider the impact of natural gas development in the Chukchi. A federal judge ordered the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to produce a second environmental impact statement that looked at the natural gas issue.

Meanwhile, any exploratory work in the Chukchi has been put on hold pending the new report. A public comment period that ended in late December drew more than 150,000 comments, the bureau said in its status report.

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The agency acknowledges that most of those are just “form submittals.” But many were substantive and required detailed response and consideration, the agency said.

Contact Patti Epler at patti(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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