Today, ConocoPhillips announced that it is suspending its drilling program in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska for 2014, due to uncertainty regarding the changing regulatory requirements. “While we are confident in our own expertise and ability to safely conduct offshore Arctic operations, we believe that more time is needed to ensure that all regulatory stakeholders are aligned,” said Trond-Erik Johansen, President, ConocoPhillips Alaska.  The company stated that it was unwilling to commit the significant resources necessary for the drilling program while regulatory requirements were still in flux.  The Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates that the Chukchi Sea contains 12 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

ConocoPhillips thus joins Shell Oil in suspending its arctic offshore drilling program.  Shell, which has leases in the adjacent Beaufort Sea, suspended its drilling program earlier this year.

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell released the following statement in response to ConocoPhillips’ announcement that it will halt its 2014 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) exploration drilling plan: “I am disappointed that the federal government’s unstable regulatory environment has led Conoco to make this business decision,” Governor Parnell said.  “The federal government’s inability to provide regulatory certainty is once again reducing jobs and economic opportunities for Alaskans.”