Italian oil company given drilling permit in Alaska

A U.S. agency says a subsidiary of Italian energy company Eni is now part of the effort to achieve 'American energy dominance.'
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Nov. 29, 2017 at 9:24 AM
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Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Letting a foreign energy company drill into the Arctic areas of Alaska is a twin insult from the Trump administration, an advocacy group said.

The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said "achieving American energy dominance" moved a step closer with the approval of a permit for a U.S. subsidiary of Italian energy company Eni to drill for oil from an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea starting next month.

Kristen Monsell, a legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the decision from U.S. President Donald Trump's administration was "totally boneheaded."

"Drilling for oil in the Arctic is an accident waiting to happen," the group said in a statement emailed to UPI. "The Trump administration is risking a major oil spill by letting this foreign corporation drill in the unforgiving waters off Alaska."

The BSEE estimates Eni's preliminary effort with its exploration well could lead to new production of around 20,000 barrels of oil per day. The company already has a presence in the region, with 18 producing wells in its portfolio.

The Italian energy company acquired leases more than a decade ago that would've expired by the end of the year without further action. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Trump administration rushed the leases through with little time for public comment.

Eni in 2014 said it reached a production milestone of 25,000 barrels of oil per day at its Nikaitchuq field offshore Alaska. The company received conditional approval to move forward offshore Alaska in July from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

In one of his final moves in office, former President Barack Obama used parts of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to ban oil and gas work in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the coast of Alaska, as well as Atlantic coast areas. Trump in April used executive action to review that effort.

The BSEE said responsible development was a critical component of U.S. energy objectives. Eni won't be able to move ahead until the agency's personnel in Alaska ensure it's meeting environmental sustainability standards.

"Exploration must be conducted safely and responsibly in relation to the Arctic environment and we will continue to engage Eni as they move forward with drilling its exploratory well," Mark Fesmire, the BSEE's director in Alaska, said in a statement.

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