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Babbitt defers Beaufort Sea oil and gas lease sale

Posted: Friday, January 19, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Proposed offshore oil leases near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Teshekpuk Lake need more study, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt says.

He put off Lease Sale 176 sale to an unspecified date.

The sale originally was scheduled for early next year, but the Department of Interior doesn't have enough time to complete the required environmental analyses, Babbitt said Thursday.

The study would have to be finished by June 30, 2002.

Once studies are complete, the area could be sold in the next five-year leasing schedule, the Interior Department said.

Federal offshore leasing in the Beaufort Sea began in 1979, and the most recent sale was in 1998. Eighty-four of the 688 leases sold during that time remain in effect.

Thirty exploration wells have discovered ''producible'' oil in five spots, the agency said. Development has begun on only one, however -- the Northstar field.



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