AP Interview: Arctic marine drilling under review

AP News

11/4/2011 3:03:06 PM - AP News
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Royal Dutch Shell paid the federal government more than $2 billion for petroleum leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest shore. But nearly four years later, the oil giant hasn't been allowed to drill an exploratory well.The company is awaiting word on the 2012 drilling season. It wants to drill up to three exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea and two in the Beaufort Sea next year.Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Hayes is playing a major role in deciding whether drill ships will appear soon in Arctic Ocean waters, which have outer continental shelf reserves estimated at 26.6 billion barrels of recoverable oil.Hayes says the issue is a "very high priority," but that he couldn't say when a decision would be made. He says one thing that is being closely looked at is whether Shell's spill response plan can do everything it promises.Environmental groups and Alaska Natives stand opposed to drilling, fearing the impacts of a spill.