* Shell seeks permit to drill single well in Beaufort Sea
* Not seeking permits to drill in more remote Chukchi Sea
By Yereth Rosen
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Oct 6 Royal Dutch Shell
(RDSa.L) has scaled back its plans to drill offshore the Alaska
coast in 2011 and now plans only a single well for the Beaufort
Shell, which has spent $3.5 billion in preparation for the
drilling, is not seeking federal permits to drill in the more
remote Chukchi Sea, where it had originally planned three
Unresolved litigation about the validity of Chukchi Sea
leases makes it impractical to plan for drilling next year in
that lightly explored region, which lies off northwestern
Alaska, said Pete Slaiby, the company's vice president for
"We've got, I think, clearer sailing in the Beaufort Sea,"
he told reporters at an Anchorage news conference.
The pending litigation includes a case in a Washington,
D.C. appeals court in which the entire five-year Alaska leasing
program was ruled improper, and a separate case in U.S.
District Court in Anchorage in which the judge ruled that MMS
had failed to do sufficient environmental review before selling
leases in the Chukchi in 2008.
Any further exploration work in the Chukchi is on hold
until the Department of Interior remedies what the courts
characterized as deficiencies in pre-sale environmental work.
The litigation was launched by environmentalists and Alaska
Natives who argued that oil drilling in Arctic waters poses
risks of oil spills and habitat disruptions that were never
New drilling had also been on hold in Arctic waters because
a policy announced by the Obama administration in the wake of
the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. In
concert with a moratorium on new deepwater Gulf of Mexico
drilling, the administration announced that it was temporarily
delaying any permits for offshore Arctic drilling until
environmental issues were better studies.
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and
Enforcement -- the successor agency to the Minerals Management
Service -- has 30 days to respond to the application, according
to statute, Slaiby said.
(Editing by Bill Rigby and Lisa Shumaker)