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March 2012 Issue

Shell’s Arctic Oil Spill Response Approved by BSEE
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) in February approved Royal Dutch Shell plc’s (The Hague, Netherlands) oil spill response program for the Chukchi Sea. The decision follows the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s conditional approval, issued in December, of Shell’s plan to drill up to six exploration wells in the Chukchi Sea during the next two summer open-water seasons within the Burger Prospect, located about 70 miles off the coast in approximately 140 feet of water.

The approval does not authorize Shell to begin drilling; Shell must still obtain well-specific drilling permits, and its equipment must pass BSEE inspection. Shell’s oil spill response program for drilling in the Beaufort Sea has been filed and is being reviewed, the company said.

The company outlined its oil spill response equipment that would be used to support its drillship Discoverer: an oil spill response vessel near the ship that carries smaller workboats, oil skimming equipment, containment boom, storage capacity for recovered oil and a dispersant application system; an Arctic oil storage tanker capable of storing at least 513,000 barrels; two skimmers; and a second oil spill response barge. All equipment is stationed immediately nearby or within 42 hours of the drillship. Shell’s planned nearshore response and shoreline equipment includes landing craft, workboats, containment boom and skimmers.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Donald Young (R-Alaska) voiced support for the response plan approval, lauding the jobs, revenue and energy resources the drilling would bring to the state and commending the federal government’s science-based approach to the process. Environmental groups have continued their opposition to Arctic drilling.

“There is no proven method of cleaning up an oil spill in Arctic conditions; there are not sufficient personnel or equipment in the region capable of carrying out an effective response plan offshore; and there are gaps in basic scientific information,” Susan Murray, Pacific senior director of conservationist group Oceana, said.


Bill for Expediting Oil and Gas Leases In ANWR, Offshore Virginia Passes US House
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 237 to 187 in February to pass H.R. 3408, the Protecting Investment in Oil Shale the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy and Resource Security (PIONEERS) Act. It would allow for and expedite oil and gas leases offshore Virginia and 3 percent of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The PIONEERS act was initially part of H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012, which was introduced in January and has not yet been voted on. The text of H.R. 3408 is expected to be eventually rolled back into H.R. 7, which aims to use revenues from U.S. energy production to repair and improve roads and bridges.

The PIONEERS act would require the Secretary of the Interior to conduct oil and gas lease sales offshore Virginia and in the ANWR within a year of the bill’s passage. An amendment to the bill requiring the North Aleutian Basin lease sale to be conducted by 2015 rather than one year after enactment was introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.). Rep. Jeff­ Landry (R-La.) introduced an amendment to raise the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act’s offshore drilling revenues cap to $750 million per year starting in 2023 until 2055. The amendment keeps the $500 million cap per year in place through 2022. Another amendment, introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) would dedicate Clean Water Act penalties associated with the Deepwater Horizon to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund.

Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) opposed the bill, which included a measure that would allow drilling within 9 miles from Florida’s Gulf Coast. A statement on Young’s website said he had concerns the environmental risks of drilling off Florida’s coast outweighed any economic or energy gains.


LightSquared’s Waiver for Mobile Network Revoked Due to GPS Interference Concerns
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) withdrew in February LightSquared LLC’s waiver to operate a $14 billion ground-based mobile broadband network after the National Telecommunications and Information Administration concluded the service would interfere with general and personal navigation GPS receivers. A mitigation strategy for the 4G-LTE network could not be reached, and the waiver will be suspended indefinitely, the FCC said.

“Rigorous testing found that the network would interfere with GPS—especially high-precision receivers used by the scientific community. Opening up more spectrum for broadband remains a national interest but not at the expense of GPS,” Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) and Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) said in a joint statement.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association expressed disappointment, ”The FCC has essentially granted squatters’ rights to users of GPS devices that were never engineered to respect the lawful property boundaries of their licensed frequencies—simply because they were there first.”


Proposed Legislation Would Exempt Navy From Sea Otter Conservation Measures in California
Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) introduced in February legislation that would allow the U.S. Navy to continue weapons testing at San Nicolas Island, California, where the range overlaps with a southern sea otter conservation area. H.R. 4043, the Military Readiness and Southern Sea Otter Conservation Act, would exempt the Navy from the Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection acts the otters are presently protected under.

The bill would establish “southern sea otter military readiness areas for national defense areas” to ensure the recovery of the southern sea otter, the recovery of abalone and the commercial harvest of shellfish fisheries. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be required to assess the habitat within one year and continue implementing its present otter relocation and management plan.

Sea otter conservation organizations came out in opposition of the bill. Advocacy group Friends of the Sea Otter wrote on its blog that, “H.R. 4043 is no more than a veiled tactic aimed at obstructing the termination of the no-otter zone and securing a restriction on the sea otter’s natural range while giving a handout to the shellfish fisheries.”



2013:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
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