Alaska: Pew Trust proposes Arctic drilling standards

Alaska Landscape. (Dan Joling, AP)
Alaska Landscape. (Dan Joling, AP)
The Interior Department’s top offshore oil official says he welcomes a detailed set of recommendations from the Pew Trust on what standards should be required for Arctic drilling.

Pew wants a fleet of ice-capable vessels, Arctic-hardened pipelines and tanks, and solid consultation with local people.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Boudreau calls the report “thoughtful.”

Many environmental groups flat-out oppose offshore Arctic drilling, but Pew’s Marilyn Heiman says they do not go that far.

“Pew does not have a position that we oppose all offshore drilling, but we do believe there are ways that this can be done right,” Heiman said.

Lois Epstein of the Wilderness Society says before her organization would drop its opposition to Arctic drilling the environment needs to be understood better, protected areas set aside, and regulatory oversight needs to be adequate.

She says Pew’s recommendations involve that third point of regulatory oversight. The industry generally agrees there need to be standards but wants flexibility in how it meets them.

Pew wants things spelled out.

Pew includes a lot of technical details in its recommendations, like active loggers that can sense how solid cementing is in well casings, and remote control capabilities. It also wants some major equipment permanently kept in Alaska waters so it’s readily available.

“One of our major recommendations is there needs to be a containment system that can stop the spill and a relief rig that can also stop the spill in case the containment system doesn’t work in the region – up in the Arctic,” Epstein said.

Interior is due to release its Arctic standards around the end of the year.

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