Under existing federal law, the Environmental Protection Agency is obligated to review and possibly revise regulations governing the handling of oil and gas waste every three years. But the agency’s last review was 27 years ago.
In a four-page letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, 10 environmental groups delivered their strongest argument yet that Shell’s exploration plan is invalid and the Interior Department would violate federal law if it issued drilling permits for Shell’s planned wells in the Chukchi Sea.
It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether the restriction highlighted by environmentalists opposed to Shell’s Arctic drilling campaign would derail the company’s plans, but it could be a major stumbling block.
A 2008 government sale of Arctic drilling leases to Shell and other companies is set to face fresh scrutiny in the federal courts, with a dozen environmental and Alaskan groups preparing to file a new challenge to the auction.
The Obama administration’s proposal for 10 auctions of drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico, three targeting Arctic waters and one of Atlantic acreage is alienating both environmentalists and the oil industry.
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