US Approves Oil Drilling in Alaska Waters, Prompting Fears for Marine Life
Associated Press | July 13, 2017
An Italian multinational oil and gas company has received permission to move ahead with drilling plans in federal waters off Alaska which environmental campaigners say will endanger polar bears, bowhead whales and other marine mammals.
Late on Wednesday, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced conditional approval of an exploratory drilling plan submitted by a US subsidiary of the company Eni.
The company plans to drill four exploration wells from the Spy Island drill site, an 11-acre artificial gravel island constructed in Alaska state waters 6-8ft deep. Spy Island is one of four artificial islands in the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska’s north coast, that support oil production.
Barack Obama last year banned oil and gas exploration in most of the Arctic Ocean. Donald Trump in April ordered the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, to review the ban, with the goal of opening offshore areas. Environmental and Alaska Native groups sued to maintain it.
Environmental groups say potential spills put marine wildlife at risk. Eni’s leases would have expired at the end of 2017, said Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, in a prepared statement. Eni’s plan calls for extended-reach wells that could stretch more than six miles into federal waters.
The Trump administration provided the public only 21 days to review and comment on the exploration plan and only 10 days to comment on scoping for an environmental assessment, Monsell said. “Approving this Arctic drilling plan at the 11th hour makes a dangerous project even riskier,” Monsell said. “An oil spill here would do incredible damage, and it’d be impossible to clean up.” …
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