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U.S. to decide soon on Shell request for extra time on Arctic leases

Jennifer A. Dlouhy: Houston Chronicle: March 4, 2015

U.S. to decide soon on Shell request for extra time on Arctic leases

Extracts

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will decide soon whether to sign off on Shell’s request for extra time to hunt for oil in Arctic waters, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Wednesday.

Without action, Shell’s oil and gas leases in the Beaufort Sea will begin expiring in 2017, followed by its drilling rights in the neighboring Chukchi Sea two years later.

“We are actively working with Shell and other leaseholders up there on their request for suspensions,” Jewell said during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing. “We will be resolving that relatively soon.”

Conservationists argue that Shell and other oil companies knew what they were getting into when they bought Chukchi Sea leases in 2008. Any Interior Department decision to give the company more time would be unwarranted “special treatment” said Oceana Deputy Vice President Susan Murray.

“Operating in the Arctic Ocean is dangerous, controversial, and logistically challenging,” Murray said. “Those facts, however, do not allow BSEE to bend its rules to grant Shell an unjustified extension of its leases.”

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