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Group challenges Buccaneer; public comments sought

Posted: November 1, 2012 - 10:35am

Conservation and Native groups joined together Monday to submit a Request for Adjudicatory Hearing relating to the state’s approval of Buccaneer Energy’s Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan, known at the C-Plan, for the company’s oil and gas exploration activities in Northern Cook Inlet. A revised version of that C-Plan also has been submitted by Buccaneer for its Cosmopolitan Project off Stariski.
“We want to ensure the division’s approval of C-plans do not have loopholes in decision-making authority in response to oil spills,” said Carl Wassilie, biologist and subsistence rights coordinator for Alaska’s Big Village. “We need a rigorous public process in blowout prevention plans so that Cook Inlet’s subsistence resources and bio-productivity of the unique ecosystem isn’t harmed like the on-going effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill 23 years ago.”
Other groups involved in the filing include the Center for Water Advocacy, Alaska Inter-Tribal Council and Cook Inlet Marine Mammal Council.
Jim Watt, president of Buccaneer Alaska, told the Homer News on Tuesday the company has worked closely with the state’s regulatory agencies to identify relevant issues. Commenting specifically on the spill plan, Watt said the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation completed “a comprehensive review of that plan to ensure compliance with all regulatory permits, and it used an approval that is fully supported by a robust administrative record.”
Watt said Buccaneer has taken “every reasonable precaution” to ensure the company’s planned operations will be carried out without harm to the inlet’s natural resources.
“I would note that our spill plan contemplates using the services of CISPRI in the highly unlikely event of a spill,” said Watt. Buccaneer is a member company of Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response Inc.
The Alaska Division of Oil and Gas also has issued a public notice and call for public input on two oil and gas-related activities near Homer: Buccaneer Energy’s proposed West Eagle Unit approximately 20 miles northeast of the city of Homer and the 2013 Cook Inlet lease sale that encompasses lands from the Matanuska-Susitna Valley to areas south of Anchor Point.
The public notice issued by the state references Buccaneer Energy’s application to form the West Eagle Unit on nine state oil and gas leases that encompass 46,395 acres. The public period for the application opened Oct. 11. Comments must be received by 4:30 p.m. Nov. 14.
“Units are formed to ensure oil and gas resources are developed in a manner that prevents waste and protects the rights of persons owning an interest in the oil and gas resources, including the state,” said the Division of Oil and Gas press release issued by Kyle Smith, legislative and policy advisor.  
Within 60 days after the comment period closes, the department will issue a written decision to approve or deny the unit application.
A decision by the state to approve formation of the unit does not authorize on-the-ground activities, however. Those activities are authorized through a Plan of Operations. The plan must be received by the division before any on-the-ground activities can commence by Buccaneer in the proposed unit.
The “Call for New Information” for the 2013 Cook Inlet lease sale was issued Oct. 12. Deadline for receiving information is 5 p.m. Nov. 13. The Department of Natural Resources issues an annual “Call for New information” to determine if substantial new information has become available that necessitates a supplemental to the state’s “Best Interest Finding” for the lease sale.
The Best Interest Finding involves participation by state and federal agencies, Native corporations, local governments, non-governmental agencies, industry and the public. The best interest finding for Cook Inlet lease sale area was issued in January 2009.
The Division of Oil and Gas defines “substantial new” information as published research, studies or data directly relevant to the specific matter that has become publically available during the last year.  
At this time, the division is considering only comments on the West Eagle unit application and the Call for New Information regarding the 2013 Cook Inlet lease sale. Comments on subject matter outside the
scope of these two notices will be kept and applied to future comment periods as appropriate.
n For more information on the West Eagle Unit application, visit dog.dnr.alaska.gov/Units/Units.htm#recentpubnot.
n Written comments on the West Eagle Unit application should be mailed to the Division of Oil and Gas, attention Wendy Woolf, Unit Manager, 550 West 7th Ave., Suite 1100, Anchorage, AK 99501-3510.
n For information on the 2013 Cook Inlet lease “Call for New Information,” visit dog.dnr.alaska.gov/Leasing/Documents/CFNI_2013_mailed_notice_20121012.pdf.
n New information on the 2013 Cook Inlet lease sale should be mailed to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas, 550 W. 7th Ave., Suite 1100, Anchorage, AK 99501-3560.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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