U.S. extends comment period for Beaufort Sea drilling

April 26 (UPI) — Concerned parties have another 30 days to weigh in on U.S. plans to open up the Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska to drillers, the government said.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management solicited the information on a proposed lease in the Alaskan waters of the Beaufort Sea next year. The proposal, still in the draft stage, is part of a five-year lease plan that would go into force in 2019 if approved in its current form

The BOEM said it has extended the call for information for another 30 days, setting the expiration at one minute before midnight EDT on May 30.

“Through the call, BOEM seeks comments from industry on their interest in the areas proposed for leasing, including nominations or indications of interest in specific lease blocks within the area,” the agency’s statement read. “BOEM also seeks comments from any interested party relating to particular geological, environmental, biological, archaeological and socioeconomic conditions, use conflicts, or other information that could affect the potential leasing and development of particular areas.”

Alaska’s offshore North Slope area, which includes the Beaufort and Chuckchi Seas, hold unproved technically recoverable crude oil resources of around 24 billion barrels, comparable to the equivalent estimate for the Bakken shale reserve in North Dakota.

In November, the government said “achieving American energy dominance,” a goal of President Donald Trump, moved a step closer with the approval of a permit for a U.S. subsidiary of Italian energy company Eni to drill for oil from an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea.

The agency estimated Eni’s preliminary effort with its exploration well could lead to new production of around 20,000 barrels of oil per day. The company has a presence in the region, with 18 producing wells in its portfolio.

Trump last year called for a review of the five-year program for offshore oil and gas development that banned work in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

After the initial call for comments, a consortium of environmental advocacy groups, including Earthjustice, the Alaska Wilderness League and the Sierra Club, said the decision was “driven purely by politics and is not in the best interest of Americans.”