The Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) last Wednesday released a draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) that responds to the concerns raised by a U.S. district judge in Alaska, who ruled that the government's sale of drilling rights for oil and natural gas development off Alaska's Northwest coast violated federal law.

The case involved the 2008 Chukchi Sea 193 Sale by Minerals Management Services, the predecessor to BOEM. Companies submitted bids totaling nearly $3.4 billion, with high bids of close to $2.7 billion.

A coalition of environmental groups and Alaska Native organizations challenged the sale in court, and U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline ruled in July that the agency failed to analyze the environmental impact of natural gas development and remanded the case back for further analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (see NGI, Aug. 16).

"Alaska's coastal waters hold rich fisheries and marine mammal communities, and environmental resources that support tourism and sustain Alaska Native nations, as well as significant oil and gas reserves. These frontier areas need additional scientific, environmental and spill risk analysis before any determinations are made as to future leasing and permitting," said BOEM Director Michael Bromwich.

"This draft SEIS, which follows a careful review of the issues raised by U.S. District Court for Alaska, is a step in that process, but more review is yet to come that looks at the Arctic region as a whole," he said.

The draft SEIS was published in the Federal Register on Friday, at which time the BOEM began accepting public comments.

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