Alaska seeks court ruling on offshore drilling ‘moratorium’

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From Green Right Now Reports

The state of Alaska has filed a petition in federal court to overturn the Obama administration’s moratorium on drilling in federal waters of the Arctic.

The problem: The Interior Department insists that no such formal moratorium exists.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, the petition says the Interior Department “arbitrarily and capriciously imposed” a moratorium on drilling in federal waters off Alaska after the Deepwater Horizon disaster “without considering and weighing the potential effects on Alaska, including economic harm to the State of Alaska and Alaska residents.”

Interior Department officials, however, insist that the drilling moratorium imposed on deepwater Gulf of Mexico operations is separate from a policy decision to take a go-slow approach on new Arctic offshore drilling.

“There is no moratorium in Alaska and therefore nothing to sue on. The moratorium is on deepwater drilling and there is no deepwater drilling in Alaska,” Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said in an email.

“We are taking a cautious approach to offshore oil and gas development as we strengthen safety and oversight of offshore oil and gas operations. This includes the Arctic, which presents unique environmental challenges.”

Royal Dutch Shell had planned to drill up to three wells in the Chukchi Sea and up to two wells in the Beaufort Sea during this year’s summer and fall open-water period. Those prospects are in waters no deeper than 150 feet, considered shallow.

In response to the blowout and massive spill at BP’s Deepwater Horizon well, the Interior Department announced that it would not issue drilling permits to Shell until more study was completed. Shell has said it hopes to drill the Chukchi and Beaufort wells next year.

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