In March 2010, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued to Shell Oil two multi-year major source air permits for its exploration drilling operations in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. Earthjustice, on behalf of several petitioners, filed a petition for review of the permits in front of the Environmental Appeals Board, an administrative court within the EPA.
The petition challenged approval of both Shell’s Chukchi and Beaufort permits on the grounds that EPA failed to apply best available control technology to Shell’s support vessels’ air emissions. The EAB, in December 2010, concluded the permits had been issued unlawfully and remanded the permits back to the EPA for further analysis. The EPA is now reconsidering the permits in light of the EAB’s order.
Shell Oil continues to violate multiple aspects of its air quality permits by not implementing pollution control technology, failing to properly maintain equipment, and violating emission standards. “Shell’s operations this summer repeatedly violated the terms of its air permits. The violations speak to a lack of conscientious management” said Earthjustice Attorney Colin O’Brien in a statement. The violations are indicative of the company’s inability to safely and efficiently operate in the challenging Arctic environment.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced a final plan for managing the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a vast and wild area in northwestern Alaska that provides vital habitat for caribou, countless shorebirds, waterfowl, bears, wolves and wolverines, among others.
Shell Oil has until the end of October to wrap up drilling operations in the Arctic.
This week, a great piece of photojournalism illustrates just how close their Kulluk drill rig is to the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which Earthjustice fought for years to protect.
U.S. Coast Guard divers are now on the way to Dutch Harbor, Alaska to inspect the 571-foot drill rig Noble Discoverer, which is scheduled to drill three exploratory wells in the American Arctic waters of the Chukchi Sea as early as August. The locals say it ran aground in the harbor in broad daylight on Saturday and took pictures to prove it. Shell Oil Co. says otherwise; it “lost its moorings and came close to the coast.” We’ll have to wait and see what the Coast Guard has to say about reasons for the mistake.