A public meeting between representatives of Buccaneer Energy and concerned Homer citizens turned contentious Wednesday night, with many people wondering why the company’s ‘Endeavor’ jack-up rig is still parked at the Homer harbor nearly two months after its arrival. Company officials say the rig will soon be moving to drill in the Cosmopolitan Unit near Anchor Point but the State of Alaska says that’s not likely to happen.
It was a packed house at the Best Western Bidarka In in Homer Wednesday night, as locals gathered to ask pointed questions concerning Buccaneer Energy’s activities in the area.
The conversation quickly turned heated, with some audience members leveling accusations instead of questions. One point of contention Tuesday night was permits – specifically, whether or not Buccaneer has the necessary permit from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to drill in the Cosmopolitan Unit.
Buccaneer Vice President Mark Landt said the company had filed with DEC for an amendment to its blowout contingency plan – or C plan – permit that would allow it to drill past an October 31st deadline. The company, he said, was expecting to be able to move the Endeavor into the Cosmopolitan Unit to begin drilling “no later than mid-November.”
But according to Graham Wood – section manager in DEC’s industry preparedness program – that’s not likely to happen.
"Buccaneer has asked us to consider ... a minor or routine amendment (to its C-Plan)," said Wood. "We have denied that request and informed them that amendment will be reviewed in the full public process."
That letter of denial was sent to Buccaneer October 19th, says Wood, and as of right now, Buccaneer has no approval from DEC to drill at Cosmo. He says the public process that Buccaneer will have to now go through will likely take at least 85 to 90 days.
Meanwhile, the City of Homer is trying to figure out what will happen with the Endeavor, which arrived at the Homer harbor August 24th and was originally supposed to be in Kachemak Bay for only eight days.
A series of delays – mostly involving needed repairs and upgrades to the rig – has caused it to stay and a severe windstorm in mid-September forced its operators to put the legs down, something that has caused controversy over whether the Endeavor’s presence violates the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area plan.
At the last Homer City Council meeting October 22nd, Homer City Manager Walt Wrede said Buccaneer still has not received authorization from the Coast Guard to move the Endeavor and now, the City of Homer is preparing for the possibility that the rig may end up at the harbor all winter long.
"The legs-down issue has to be resolved, "said Wrede. "We have told Buccaneer that if you want to stay here for the winter, you have to have the legs down because otherwise, it's not safe."
Wrede says the immense size and triangular shape of the rig make it difficult – maybe impossible – to store at the Deepwater Dock without the legs down. Plus, the presence of the rig at the dock is interfering with normal harbor business.
Buccaneer Energy had planned another meeting Wednesday night at McNeil Canyon Elementary School, focused on its plans for land based drilling at West Eagle, an area 21 miles east of Homer.