Environmentalists mount fresh challenge against Shell’s Arctic drilling plans


Environmentalists have opened a new front in their campaign to block Shell’s planned drilling in Arctic waters near Alaska, by challenging the government’s decision to issue the company essential air pollution permits for some of the work.

At issue are Clean Air Act permits the Environmental Protection Agency issued last month for Shell Oil Co.’s Kulluk drillship and support vessels, which the firm plans to use while working on exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas starting next summer.

Ten Alaskan and environmental groups appealed those permits before the EPA’s administrative Environmental Appeals Board on Monday. That builds on a similar appeal of the Clean Air Act permits issued for Shell’s Noble Discoverer that was filed in October.

The latest challenge was mounted by Earthjustice, representing another nine groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Alaska Wilderness League.

The group highlights the risks associated with drilling for oil — and cleaning up any spills — in slushy, remote Arctic waters.

“Drilling for oil in the remote and often dangerous waters of the Arctic Ocean, where 20 foot swells and hurricane force winds accompany months-long winter darkness, is being approved despite an acknowledged lack of basic science and preparedness,” the coalition said in a statement. “Were drilling to result in an oil spill, cleanup could be nearly impossible.”

Shell is proposing to drill four wells in the Beaufort Sea and six in the nearby Chukchi Sea over the next two years, beginning when ice clears next summer.

Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said the company is confident that its Kulluk air permit will be upheld, since it has already been subjected to a “thorough technical analysis.”

“Each approval in this permitting process is critical before Shell can begin exploratory, shallow water drilling next summer in Alaska,” op de Weegh said. “We have dedicated $4 billion and 5-years to studying, planning, and equipping a world-class drilling and contingency program. If we couldn’t explore these domestic resources safely and responsibly, we wouldn’t be there.”

Shell has previously cited its plans for tackling any spills and safeguards that it is planning to trim the risks of any accidents, including the use of redundant emergency equipment at the wellheads.

Federal regulators at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have already approved the company’s broad blueprint for the Beaufort Sea drilling, and are currently reviewing the firm’s Chukchi Sea plan. A federal task force also is evaluating the company’s oil spill response plans for the region.

Separately, environmentalists are challenging the Bureau’s approval of the Beaufort Sea exploration plan in federal court.

The air pollution permits have proven a vulnerable target in the past for Arctic drilling foes. For instance, last year, the Environmental Appeals Board tossed out permits as invalid and faulted the EPA for issuing them without fully reviewing potential emissions from a drill ship and support vessel. But EPA officials told lawmakers this year they are hopeful the new permits don’t suffer from the same problems and will withstand scrutiny.

Earthjustice EAB appeal of Shell Kulluk air permit

Jennifer Dlouhy

19 Responses

  1. Sointly says:

    It’s time we found politicians with the backbone necessary to stand up to the environmental groups that are blocking progress at our expense…frankly I’m tired of having to pay higher gas prices that are due in large part to a lack of capacity. Refinery capacity in the US has been relatively flat for the last 20 years. The EPA pushed by environmentalist has created regulations that make it nearly impossible to build or add capacity. Then there’s global warming…maybe…maybe not, but before we go down this road of unaffordable energy costs we need better data from an unbiased scientific community. Its time Al Gore and the lot found real jobs and stopped running around the globe with their “chicken little” dire warnings to advance their agendas and make billions of $$ from Cap and Trade markets.

  2. Oscar says:

    The location justifies extra concern, but it seems many just don’t care about the possibility of a horrible mess. Could these people be the same ones pushing to drill these wells?

  3. txloanguy says:

    If we require the green weirdos to live without any benefit of oil in any manner, the protests would stop. Make them use ALL green products. They would be broke and walking everywhere. Travel to Alaska to protest? That’s a long walk.

  4. Trail Tramp says:

    Enviro-Nazis…working hard to build their socialist Utopia.

  5. Diogenes says:

    Let’s ignore the enviro-terrorists…better yet, let’s imprison them without trial, like the Senate just voted to do to Americna citizens suspected of terrorism, and keep them from interfering in the adult business…

  6. tboyinhouston says:

    Our oil based economy will eventually come crashing down. I will probably be dead by then but when it happens it will be a good thing for this earth, if there is anything left after the corporate ho’s are done with it.

  7. Jumpin Jesus says:

    If it was American companies drilling to provide Americans with the products from our soil that would be one thing, but it is not. That oil will go to the highest bidder at the cost of Americas prestine natural splendor. It could end up in communist China and the gas could end up in Iran.

    Is that what you really want? I say let the other nations destroy their land. We’ll improve our technology until they are obsolete.

    God bless America. The commie loving international terror corps can go pound sand.

  8. hgnis says:

    Funny how the people shouting the loudest to stop the exploration seem to be able to (i) afford more expensive everything and (ii) use the most of this so called dirty fuel eh?

  9. jamesr110 says:

    WE need HOME grown oil…the more the better…Do you know what they call 1000 of these greenie weinies at the bottom of a lake??? A good start!!!

  10. chiefdecoy says:

    Worried about 20ft. swells???
    They have been drilling in MUCH worse for decades in the North Sea. Give me a break.
    Most of the idiots against it, are the first fools to cry about the price of gas/energy. Lead by example, and WALK or ride your bicycle everywhere you go. Don’t be a hypocrite…..

  11. Contaminated Gulf says:

    People are sick of wingnuts pillaging and plundering our environment to make a few bucks. Get a real job.

  12. AmericanDefender says:

    ANY Enviromentalist SHOULD BE REQUIRED to WALK! Absolutely NO CARS, TRUCKS or Motorcycles! Plus they should be DENIED electricity and natural gas! If they protest AGAINST IT they SHOULDN’T be ALLOWED to USE IT!

  13. AnimuX says:

    If we only had some kind of historical example of an oil disaster in Alaska to justify the concerns of today’s environmentalist groups…

    Something like a massive oil spill that caused unprecedented ecological damage to local flora and fauna or ruined lives and livelihoods of American citizens who then had to fight in court for decades to be compensated for the harm done to their community…


    Don’t worry everybody. Conservatives say disaster will never happen (you can trust them) and that the environmentalists are all just kooks who want unpolluted water, air, and land instead of capitalism.

  14. gary jordan says:

    I just wish all the oil companies in the US searching and drilling for oil would finally say….no more! We will not raise another barrel until the US Govt. get the EPA and all the do goodie environuts under control. Lets see how long it’ll take for the politicains to start thinking of our future…not some other countries. Especially OPEC countries.

  15. Mark from Louisiana says:

    Worst part of this is that we taxpayers fund the lawyers who sue the EPA.

  16. AKH says:

    “Drilling for oil in the remote and often dangerous waters of the Arctic Ocean, where 20 foot swells and hurricane force winds accompany months-long winter darkness”… Maybe that’s why Shell plans to drill in THE SUMMER you stupid eco-freaks! I was led to believe that a group or individual needed to have some legal standing to bring a suit. How can a Tuscon, AZ based environmental lobbying group be seen to have a vital interest in drilling off the Alaskan coastline?

  17. Hotshot007 says:

    ‘Environmental Groups’ would be taken more seriously if they did not oppose EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY.

    We do need some forms of energy and power in these United States and the jobs that go with them. It is fine to pick and choose and discuss the relative merits and demerits of various proposals and technologies.

    So personally, the worst ‘bad actor’ in ‘Big Oil’ has long been BP. Shell runs a clean operation. Coincidentally, Shell Arctic is much cleaner proposal than the Canadian Tar Sand projects.

    And, by my lights, the worst recent Energy/Power proposal was to have the ‘bad actors’ from the horrible nuclear disasters in Japan … as MAJOR PLAYERS in the Texas nuclear revival. We were ‘saved by the bell’ in that one. And the only issue (bogus at that) raised by the ‘Greenies’ was cooling water. Texas has local capability to drastically reduce cooling water usage at electrical generation stations.

  18. John L says:

    Our government and liberal press will forever pander to these lowlife anti-capitalists who want nothing more than to destroy our economy. The billions in development and the 10’s of thousands of jobs lost by the purely political decision to put off Keystone is nothing short of criminal.

  19. Bill in Houston says:

    Let’s stop calling these people “environmentalists.” They aren’t. They are simply anti-capitalist anti-technologists who want us to reduce our standard of living.