A petition filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission represents a novel bid by Arctic drilling foes to highlight the risks of the activity — going beyond potential environmental perils to the financial factors that might be more persuasive to shareholders.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the Obama administration will decide soon whether to yield to Shell’s request for an extension of its Arctic drilling leases. Statoil and ConocoPhillips have made parallel requests for leases that will begin expiring in 2019.
The Interior Department’s proposal would for the first time impose specific mandates on offshore drilling in isolated U.S. Arctic waters — updating rules that were built decades ago for the much more temperate Gulf of Mexico.
The Obama administration’s proposal for 10 auctions of drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico, three targeting Arctic waters and one of Atlantic acreage is alienating both environmentalists and the oil industry.
The Obama administration is poised to unveil a draft plan for selling offshore oil and gas leases that is expected to rule out auctioning drilling rights in parts of the Atlantic Ocean as well as in some Arctic waters and along the West Coast between 2017 and 2022.
Three oil companies with billions invested in Arctic drilling leases are pleading with the Obama administration for extra time to hunt for crude under waters north of Alaska, but so far, federal regulators have been skeptical.
Shell, which has spent eight years and $6 billion to explore the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas, said in letter to the Interior Department that “prudent” exploration before leases expire is now “severely challenged.”
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