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ConocoPhillips forges ahead with Arctic offshore plans as villages, environmentalists appeal leases

Opponents of a 2008 lease sale for the Chukchi Sea have asked a federal judicial panel to reconsider them, saying the federal government inadequately considered the effects of energy exploration on Alaska village life and wildlife. As Courthouse News reports, the lawsuit has already been dismissed by a federal judge, but the plaintiffs on Tuesday told an appeals panel in Seattle that "vast amounts of basic information are missing" from the lease sale's environmental impact statement. The leases include those on which Royal Dutch Shell began drilling in 2012.

Eric Grafe, with Earthjustice, represented the Native communities and environmentalists. ... He said the federal managers nevertheless concluded that the missing information is inconsequential to offering leases.

"What the government did here cannot stand," Grafe said.

Asked by Judge William Fletcher to identify the missing information, Grafe responded: "It's not for us to cite specific information."

A Department of the Interior representative assured the judges the desired information is not necessary at the leasing stage and that the odds of development on the leases are under 10 percent. 

Read more at Courthouse News: New Alaska oil leases debated in 9th Circuit

On Thursday, a ConocoPhillips official said his company is pushing ahead with its own Chukchi drilling plans for 2014 despite the problems encountered by Shell during its first year of drilling there.

The oil major is targeting a prospect called Devils Paw in the Chukchi Sea, Mike Faust, the Chukchi program manager, said at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's annual Arctic Open Water Meeting.

ConocoPhillips' exploration plan is under review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the company expects to submit additional information next week, Faust added.

Read more about the company's plans at Reuters: ConocoPhillips on track to drill in Arctic waters next year