Federal judge halts activity on Chukchi Sea petroleum leases, says enviro law not followed

By Dan Joling, AP
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Judge halts oil, gas development on Chukchi Sea

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A federal judge says the U.S. government failed to follow environmental law before it sold billions of dollars worth of petroleum leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline (BYST’-lyn) stopped all activity under the leases pending further review.

The lease sale in February 2008 garnered nearly $2.7 billion for the federal government from the sale of 2.76 million acres in Arctic Ocean waters, including $2.1 billion in high bids submitted by Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc.

Beistline ruled Wednesday that the Minerals Management Service failed to analyze the environmental effect of natural gas development despite industry interest.

The agency analyzed only the development of the first field of 1 billion barrels of oil.

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