06/26/2012 - Even as the first offshore drilling in the Arctic in nearly two decades is poised to get underway, Obama administration officials said Tuesday they are preparing to open additional areas of the Arctic Ocean to oil and gas exploration.
Such exploration will be part of a “targeted leasing” strategy that will place a few of the most sensitive areas — including prized wildlife habitat just north of Barrow, Alaska — off-limits but will allow new leasing in 2016 in the Chukchi Sea and 2017 in the Beaufort Sea.
The full scope of the offshore-leasing program in the Arctic for 2012-17 will not be released for another several days, but U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made it clear that the U.S. plans to expand the march of drilling rigs into the Arctic after Shell’s initial exploratory drilling program this summer. Salazar said that program is likely to win final federal approvals soon.
Eleanor Huffines, U.S. Arctic program manager for the Pew Environment Group, said the restricted zone north of Barrow most likely will be Barrow Canyon -- well known for ice seals, bowhead whales, beluga and walrus. That area is considered critical not only for the Arctic ecosystem, but for native subsistence hunters.
“It’s very encouraging that they recognize there are areas in the Arctic Ocean that are too important to drill,” Huffines said in an interview.
Read the full article, Salazar: U.S. to Open More of Arctic Ocean to Oil, Gas Drilling, on the Los Angeles Times' website.