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article imageTrump administration quickly OKs first Arctic drilling plan

By Karen Graham     Jul 14, 2017 in Environment
Eni S.p.A., an Italian multinational oil, and gas company has received federal approval to drill for oil in federal waters offshore Alaska, as President Trump makes good on his promise to make America energy independent.
The last time any drilling was done was in 2015 when Royal Dutch Shell ended its exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea after the ship they were leasing suffered a gash in the mostly uncharted waters and environmentalists discovered an existing law that limited the company's ability to drill, according to Reuters.
Eni has been holding leases for drilling in the Beaufort Sea off the coast of Alaska for about 10 years, and even though they have been given approval by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the approval is contingent on the company getting other state and federal permits.
Eni has been exploring Alaska's North Slope since 2006 and already holds 75 leases in federal waters off the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Now that Eni has been given approval, they will join other gas and oil companies, including Caelus, Hilcorp, and BP who are already drilling off artificial islands in the Beaufort Sea.
"We know there are vast oil and gas resources under the Beaufort Sea, and we look forward to working with Eni in their efforts to tap into this energy potential," said BOEM's Acting Director Walter Cruickshank.
Map of Alaska showing Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea.
Map of Alaska showing Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea.
Basically, this is all part of Trump's plan, initiated in April when he signed his so-called America-First Offshore Energy Strategy executive order that extended offshore oil and gas drilling to other areas of the Arctic that had previously been off limits.
Eni's plan is to drill four exploratory wells in the Beaufort Sea from an artificial island using what's called extended wells, over six miles long before the end of December, when the leases expire.
The whole process was done very quickly
It appears that the approval process was rushed through very quickly by the BOEM and environmental groups picked up on that just as quickly. The public was only given 21 days to comment on the exploration plan and only 10 days to comment on the possible environmental impacts.
Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the time allowed was insufficient, given the potential risks involved. "An oil spill here would do incredible damage, and it'd be impossible to clean up," Monsell said. "The Trump administration clearly cares only about appeasing oil companies, no matter its legal obligations or the threats to polar bears or our planet."
Northstar Island  an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska  is a site of oil and gas...
Northstar Island, an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, is a site of oil and gas drilling.
Joint Pipeline Office
Could it be that the approval process was speed-up because the drilling will take place from Spy Island, an existing gravel island in state waters, located just three miles off the coast of Alaska? And here's the real kicker - The extended reach wells, the longest in Alaska will stretch for six miles horizontally in water that's only six-feet deep.
Monsell also noted that the BOEM's approval of the exploratory drilling at the "11th hour" before their lease was to run out "makes a dangerous project even riskier."
Last month, reports Inside Climate News, 12 other environmental programs, including Earthjustice, Greenpeace, WWF and the Sierra Club sent in comments to BOEM about Eni's proposed drilling plan, explaining that the company had not adequately addressed the extent of environmental harm the project could pose, the likelihood of an oil spill, or how Eni would respond to a large oil spill.
"Eni simply has failed to submit a complete, adequate Exploration Plan and environmental impact analysis, and, accordingly BOEM should rescind its completeness determination and reject Eni's Exploration Plan," the groups wrote. What kills me is that the BOEM said that drilling would have "no significant impact."
More about Arctic waters, Trump administration, BOEM, Eni SPA, Beaufort sea
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