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State Receives More Clarification on Chukchi Order

August 6, 2010, Juneau, Alaska - The State of Alaska succeeded Thursday in helping to ensure that a federal court injunction won't stand in the way of permitted seismic testing for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea lease areas.

The Anchorage federal court agreed that its injunction doesn't prevent seismic testing unrelated to defects the court found in an environmental impact statement prepared by the federal government.

"The State of Alaska continues to advocate for responsible off-shore development, so that we can generate and retain jobs in the current harsh economic climate," said Governor Sean Parnell. "The court's clarification yesterday averts the loss of important jobs in Alaska's energy sector." 

On July 21, the U.S. District Court in Anchorage issued an injunction against all activities under certain 2008 oil and gas lease sales in the Chukchi, pending additional analysis by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement. On July 27, Shell, a lessee, moved for reconsideration or clarification of the injunction, arguing that the injunction was overly broad in that it barred even non-drilling activity, such as seismic testing. The state, which had intervened in the case, filed a brief in support of that motion on July 30. 

On Monday, the court clarified that the injunction was not intended to include permitted activities, such as seismic testing by Shell. Despite this clarification, federal agencies that issue permits for seismic and other testing remained uncertain as to whether activities by other companies could proceed.

After the state filed a brief Wednesday stating its belief that the injunction did not apply to other companies, the court clarified that its injunction was intended to be narrow and did not apply to any seismic testing in the area, including work proposed by Statoil USA E&P Inc., whose summer seismic testing plans were threatened due to the uncertainty over the scope of the court's ruling.

Meanwhile, the state has moved for reconsideration to have the injunction lifted entirely. The judge has yet to rule on that motion.

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