Faced with Rules that 'Keep Changing,' Shell Suspends Alaska Arctic Drilling

Alaska’s senators are livid that court hang-ups over a lease sale means that Shell won’t be drilling at all in the Chukchi Sea this year.

Shell has so far invested close to $6 billion to develop its leases in Alaska’s Arctic, spending more than $2 billion on just the leases. The company said “uncertainty raised by the recent Ninth Circuit Court decision that requires the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management to gather and synthesize additional data related to Chukchi Lease Sale 193″ left the company with “the lack of a clear path forward” for the summer drilling season.


Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she was “not surprised given the 9th Circuit’s decision and the administration’s failure to provide regulatory and permitting certainty for oil development in the Arctic.”

“We can’t expect Shell to continue to spend billions of dollars on this project when the rules keep changing,” she said. “Just this week, the president claimed that he was committed to an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy plan, but clearly that is not the case in Alaska. The fact is that all of the increase in oil production the president touts has come from state and private lands – not on federal lands, and certainly not from Alaska. Instead of taking credit that he does not deserve, the president should be fixing the very real problems he has created in our state.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) called it “simply unacceptable that judicial overreach is getting in the way of letting Alaskans develop our own natural resources.”

“Development in the Arctic has already been subjected to unprecedented safety standards – far more than domestic production anywhere else,” Begich added.


Murkowski said “companies willing to invest billions of dollars to develop our country’s resources must have confidence that the federal agencies responsible for overseeing their efforts are competent and working in good faith.”

“I’m not convinced that has been the case for Alaska.”

“I expect the administration to work quickly to address the deficiencies identified by the court in its analysis of lease sale 193. And, beyond that, I expect the president to demonstrate his unequivocal support for development in the Arctic,” she said. “Our offshore resources are one of our greatest opportunities to improve America’s energy security, generate new revenue without raising taxes, create thousands of jobs across the country, and keep the trans-Alaska oil pipeline operational.”

Begich said he’ll be talking with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell today “and expect her agency to move quickly to address the court’s questions and concerns and do everything possible to get this process back on track.”

“Alaskans know that energy development brings not only our energy security but also our financial security, and no one knows about safe, responsible development like Alaskans do,” he added.


Environmental groups, though, did a victory lap for running Shell out of town for now.



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