Alaska Gov: Judge Clears Shell's Offshore Seismic Oil Testing

SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones Newswires), Aug. 6, 2010

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said Friday that Shell and other companies can proceed with seismic testing for oil and gas in Alaska's Chukchi Sea after a federal judge agreed that such activities aren't restricted by an injunction on offshore drilling.

In addition to Shell, the judge's ruling on Thursday allows other companies to pursue seismic testing in Arctic waters, including Norwegian oil producer Statoil which had proposed doing offshore seismic testing this summer, Parnell said.

Meanwhile, the state has asked the court to lift the injunction entirely.

"The state of Alaska continues to advocate for responsible offshore development, so that we can generate and retain jobs in the current harsh economic climate," Parnell said in a statement.

In response to a lawsuit filed by environmental groups, a federal judge in Anchorage issued an injunction July 21 halting offshore oil and gas drilling off Alaska's North Coast pending further environmental review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

The federal government recently formed that agency to oversee offshore oil and gas exploration and development, replacing the Minerals Management Service, which was dismantled under heavy criticism following the April 20 explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

On July 27, Shell asked the court to reconsider or clarify the injunction, arguing that it unfairly barred nondrilling activity such as seismic testing.

On Thursday, the court clarified that the injunction did not apply to seismic testing in the area, according to Parnell.

A telephone call to Shell wasn't immediately returned.

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