BOEM Seeks Public Comment to Inform Environmental Assessment and Analysis of Chukchi Sea Exploration Plan

11-16-2011 Anchorage, Alaska

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) today announced that public comment is invited in connection with a revised Exploration Plan (EP) submitted by Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc. The EP, which reflects Shell’s proposal to drill in shallow water off the coast of northwest Alaska, is available for review at: http://www.boem.gov/ShellChukchi2012.

An EP describes all exploration activities planned by the operator for a specific lease or leases, including the timing of these activities, information concerning drilling vessels, the location of each planned well, and other relevant information that is needed to meet important safety and environmental standards.

Shell’s EP proposes to conduct a multi-year exploration drilling program in the Chukchi Sea, in the Arctic Ocean, beginning in July 2012. The EP proposes to drill up to six wells within the Burger Prospect, located about 70 miles off the coast in approximately 140 feet of water. Shell would conduct its operations using the drillship M/V Noble Discoverer and various support vessels, with the Discoverer departing the Chukchi Sea at the end of each season.

BOEM has determined that Shell’s EP, supporting materials, and documentation are sufficient for the agency to begin a full analysis, and in accordance with federal law, BOEM now has 30 calendar days to analyze and evaluate the EP. As part of this analysis and under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the bureau will also prepare a site-specific environmental assessment (EA) of the proposed exploration activities.

Upon completion of the technical and environmental analysis, BOEM must decide whether to approve the plan, require modifications, or disapprove the plan. 
There are two separate opportunities to provide public comments with respect to Shell’s EP:

  • A 10-day comment period (until Nov. 26, 2011) for the public to comment on any issues that should be considered by BOEM in preparing the EA for the plan.
  • A separate 21-day period (until Dec. 7, 2011) for the public to submit comments on the revised EP itself.

To provide public comment, and to view the comments that have been submitted, go to BOEM’s Public Engagement Opportunities page and click on “Open Comment Documents.”

Under federal regulations, an EP must be accompanied by an oil spill response plan. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is responsible for reviewing and approving oil spill response plans for activities on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. Shell has submitted a revised plan for its operations in the Chukchi Sea. BSEE is making Shell’s response plan for the Chukchi Sea available for public review and comment in conjunction with BOEM’s EP review. This is consistent with prior BSEE practice in Alaska.

To provide public comment, and to view the comments that have been submitted, go to BSEE’s Public Engagement Opportunities page and click on “Open Comment Documents.” Comments will be accepted until Dec. 7, 2011.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) promotes energy independence, environmental protection and economic development through responsible, science-based management of offshore conventional and renewable energy resources.