06/26/2012 - Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday that it was “highly likely” that the agency would grant Shell permits to begin drilling exploratory wells off the North Slope of Alaska as early as next month.
Mr. Salazar, while acknowledging that the Arctic presented unique environmental and safety challenges for oil and gas operations, said he was confident that Shell would meet the Interior Department’s new standards for offshore drilling.
Mr. Salazar announced that a 2012-17 offshore oil and gas leasing program to be released this week would include new tracts in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off Alaska, where Shell is planning to drill its exploratory wells this summer. But he said those sales would exclude sensitive environmental areas and wildlife migration and feeding waters, and would not be held until 2016 and 2017 to allow time for more scientific study.
Marilyn Heiman, an Arctic specialist at the Pew Environment Group, said the department’s new approach to leasing was a significant improvement.
“It’s becoming clearer and clearer that this administration has gotten the message that the Arctic is different and needs a more careful approach,” Ms. Heiman said in a telephone interview. “We’re still disappointed they are talking about new leasing when they already have millions of acres under lease. But the fact they pushed it back to do science and study community and subsistence needs sends a very strong signal.”
Read the full article, Shell Is Likely to Receive Permits for Oil Drilling Off Alaska, on the New York Times' website.