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The company says it’s walking away from oil exploration in U.S. Arctic waters for the “foreseeable future,” but it’s keeping its options open.
The Interior Department announced it was canceling government auctions of drilling rights in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, previously scheduled for 2016 and 2017 respectively. At the same time, it formally rejected bids by Statoil and Shell for more time to search for crude under their existing Arctic leases.
Shell’s aggressive bidding for drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea in 2008 put the company on a trajectory that ended with its $7 billion bust in the Arctic Ocean.
A dozen Democrats insist oil companies aren’t telling shareholders the gritty reality of their crude pursuits, including the environmental and financial risks of drilling in the Arctic Ocean and other frontier areas.
Shell has already been drilling the well for more than two weeks. But BSEE had ordered the company to halt after completing the top 3,000 feet, because critical emergency equipment were not nearby to safeguard the work.
Shell could begin work within days, but the government-imposed restrictions could keep its drill bits from reaching potential oil-bearing rock thousands of feet below the surface of the Chukchi Sea.
Newly analyzed marine tracking data shows a Shell-contracted icebreaker may have crossed through shallow waters that offered it little clearance.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said it could not authorize sound from Shell’s planned drilling of wells roughly nine miles apart to disturb walruses in the Chukchi Sea, because a 2013 requirement mandates a 15-mile buffer zone.