Arctic Oil Drilling to Pump Pollution into Pristine Skies

Groups file lawsuit challenging EPA air pollution permit for Shell Oil


Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098


Kristen Miller, Alaska Wilderness League, (202) 544-5205


Brendan Cummings, Center for Biological Diversity, (760) 366-2232


Bob Keefe, Natural Resources Defense Council, (202) 289-2373


Pamela A. Miller, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, (907) 452-5021, ext. 24


Colleen Keane, Pacific Environment, (206) 734-9300


Faith Gemmill, Resisting Environmental Destruction On Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), (907) 750-0188


Dan Ritzman, Sierra Club, (206) 499-5764


Lois Epstein, The Wilderness Society, (907) 272-9453, ext. 107

A day after more than 1 million people urged President Barack Obama to reject plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer, a coalition of groups today filed a lawsuit in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air pollution discharge permit for Shell’s Kulluk offshore drilling unit and associated fleet of vessels for use in the Beaufort Sea.

An oil spill in these waters would devastate nearby communities and have significant impacts on endangered or threatened species such as bowhead whales and polar bears. Beaufort Sea / Alaska.
(Florian Schulz /

The permit was issued finally on May 8. Shell intends to use the Kulluk to drill in the fragile, remote, stormy and icy waters of the American Arctic Ocean starting this July.

Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environment Center, Pacific Environment, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society filed the challenge, represented by Earthjustice. The organizations issued the following statement regarding the lawsuit:

“As early as this summer, the Kulluk drilling unit and other vessels in Shell’s fleet could be in the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean where they will pump tens of thousands of tons of pollution into pristine Arctic skies. Not only will they be drilling for oil in some of the harshest conditions on earth, each year, these ships will emit large amounts of harmful air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Further, industrial carbon pollution, including black carbon, from the Kulluk fleet is expected to accelerate the loss of snow and sea ice in the Arctic, to the detriment of both the fragile Arctic ecosystem and members of Alaska Native communities that rely upon a healthy ecosystem for subsistence and other traditional cultural activities.

“The EPA approved these permits without ensuring that all air quality requirements are met and without requiring Shell to install all the controls it should have.

“In addition to the excess air pollution from the Kulluk and its support fleet, Shell’s drilling poses other risks. Drilling for oil in the remote waters of the Arctic Ocean is risky and fraught with potential disaster. An oil spill in these waters would devastate nearby communities and have significant impacts on endangered or threatened species such as bowhead whales and polar bears.”

Read the petition for review.

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