Washington: Sally Jewell, head of the US Department of the Interior, suggested on Monday that the administration’s five-year plan for offshore oil and gas exploration could be scaled back.
Speaking at the annual IHS CERAWeek energy industry conference in Houston as it opened, Jewell said the plan may change before it is proposed and finalised by 2016, but those changes would only be reductions in lease sales, not increases.
As it stands, the plan calls for 14 potential lease sales in eight of the 26 possible offshore planning areas from 2017 to 2022, including a possible sale off the US east coast, which has sparked a flurry of discussion and public meetings throughout the Atlantic states.
Secretary Jewell also said Shell had learned “some very painful and expensive lessons about contractors” from its mishaps drilling in the Arctic in 2012. Shell is poised to resume Arctic drilling soon, for the first time since then.
The Interior Department this month confirmed Shell’s exploration lease in Alaska, bringing the company closer to resuming drilling that was halted after a rig was stranded and after it faced legal challenges.
Shell’s plans for the Arctic resumption are under review by Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The plan calls for Shell to drill six exploration wells using the Noble Discoverer and Polar Pioneer rigs. The latter rig was boarded by a Greenpeace activist group while crossing the Pacific recently en route to its Seattle mooring.
The fleet is expected to face mass protest from environmental groups in Seattle from May 16-18, a so-called “Festival of Resistance”.