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Has Buccaneer proven itself capable of responsibly developing Alaska oil and gas?

Nina Faust
Buccaneer Energy's jack-up rig Endeavour, docked in Homer, has been plagued with many problems since it's August 24 arrival. October 17, 2012
Courtesy Peter Law
Buccaneer Energy's jack-up rig Endeavour, docked in Homer, has been plagued with many problems since it's August 24 arrival. October 23, 2012
Courtesy Peter Law
Buccaneer Energy's jack-up rig Endeavour, docked in Homer, has been plagued with many problems since it's August 24 arrival. October 23, 2012
Courtesy Peter Law
Buccaneer Energy's jack-up rig Endeavour, docked in Homer, has been plagued with many problems since it's August 24 arrival. October 23, 2012
Courtesy Peter Law
Buccaneer Energy's jack-up rig Endeavour, docked in Homer, has been plagued with many problems since it's August 24 arrival. October 23, 2012
Courtesy Peter Law

OPINION: Troubling questions about Buccaneer Energy were raised in recent opinion pieces. Buccaneer seems to be operating by the seat of their pants, letting things slide till the last minute, not always operating by the rules, and continually asking for special dispensation. This behavior does not bode well for the company's ability to handle the unexpected.

Buccaneer's West Eagle Unit application in the Caribou Hills is a good example. Buccaneer bought these leases in March 2010 from Stellar Oil and Gas LLC, with ample time to develop before expiration, but they were over-extended on other prospects around the Cook Inlet region.

Now scrambling, Buccaneer wants the state to extend the expiration dates of 80 percent of the leases.

These parcels were sold nearly 10 years ago despite strong opposition within the Homer area. More than 400 people attended a public hearing and most asked the state to remove leases in this area from the sale. The state sold them anyway.

Since nothing happened, most folks thought the issue had gone away. It has not.

Buccaneer has rushed to complete its application, get necessary permits and drill the first well. The company went over old 2-D seismic data and got a three-year lease to buy a drilling rig if things go their way. It has provided little public information about the project to help residents understand the scale of what is proposed, and Buccaneer appears unprepared for emergency situations.

The company missed the proposed drilling date of Sept. 30, 2012, which wasn't really feasible given their late start and admitted need to realign parts of East End Road to accommodate their drilling rig. The project has been rushed and poorly planned — something very dangerous in oil and gas development.

This approach to West Eagle, the mooring of the Endeavour and the illegal lowering of the rig's legs in Kachemak Bay, plus claiming Buccaneer will start drilling off Anchor Point before securing a backup rig agreement in case of a blow-out, should make Alaskans very nervous. This Australian company has come here to exploit the resource in the fastest way possible with the likelihood that mistakes will be made.

The state should let the leases expire. Give Homer time to further explore alternative energy for this area and Lower Cook Inlet. Already the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve and the City of Homer have partnered to log the tidal energy at the dock.

The Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association has received a $200,000 Department of Energy grant to explore tidal energies. Homer could do something similar. Renewable energy benefits all residents because over time, its price will not increase once the initial instillation is paid for, and it is clean energy.

There is no hurry to develop this lease area. Buccaneer is trying to grab as many opportunities as it can while the grabbing is good, but at the same time is putting itself in a position where it may not be able to live up to responsibilities.

The state should not renew these leases so Buccaneer can focus on quality, not quantity. In the long run, this is best to protect resources and the interests of local residents. The state does not lose in the long run because oil and gas in the ground is money in the bank.

Buccaneer will have a presentation from 6:30-8 p.m. today at McNeil Canyon School; another presentation was Wednesday from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Best Western Bidarka.

Nina Faust is a retired high school teacher and long-time community activist.

This commentary originally appeared in The Homer News and is reprinted here with permission. Alaska Dispatch encourages a diversity of opinion and community perspectives. The opinions expressed herein are those of the contributor and are not necessarily endorsed or condoned by Alaska Dispatch. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.