Shell's effort to drill sensitive and remote areas of the Arctic are on track as the Obama administration has denied challenges over two of the oil giant's air pollution permits, a move green groups say begins "full scale" exploitation of the region.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 75-page Order Denying Review (pdf), which derailed efforts by green group challenges over Shell’s controversial desire to drill off the northern coast of Alaska, has been met with jubilation by the state’s senators.
“I’m relieved that the EPA’s internal appeals board chose here not to drag out the process any further, and I hope that the permits for Shell’s second drillship, the Kulluk, are similarly confirmed in a timely manner,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the GOP leader on the the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, The Hill reports.
The EPA’s decision to uphold Royal Dutch Shell’s permits was met with approval on the other side of the aisle as well, with Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) calling it “excellent” news. “As we continue to push the Obama Administration to move permits and coordinate decisions that will allow us to use our own resources to fuel our nation’s economy and create thousands of jobs, I’m pleased to see the EPA give another key piece of regulatory certainty that Shell can work in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas this summer,” he said in a statement.
Although Shell needs further federal approvals for drilling leases in the Arctic, the oil giant has spent billions of dollars for obtaining and using such leases.
The Arctic is home to such fragile species as the polar bear and bowhead whale. Environmental groups fear industrial pollution associated with oil exploration and drilling will threaten the sensitive Arctic ecology.
Colin O’Brien, attorney for Earthjustice, told the Associated Press, “These permits pave the way for Shell to emit thousands of tons of harmful air pollution into the pristine Arctic environment, at levels that may be harmful to nearby communities and the environment for years to come.”
In October, environmental groups called the EPA’s decision of issuing Clean Air Act permits to Shell for Arctic drilling an assault on the region.
“These permits mark the start of full-scale industrial oil exploitation of the extremely sensitive Arctic. Oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean comes with unacceptable risks of spills that could have catastrophic impacts on Arctic wildlife and the communities that rely on the Arctic environment,” said Vera Pardee, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, in a news statement. “We witnessed devastating damage from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill; the turbulent, icy, dark and remote conditions of the Arctic would make cleanup there even harder — next to impossible. Drilling in Arctic waters is an extremely bad idea.”
Shell made news in December when its oil disaster in the Bonga oil field, situated off the Nigerian coast, spilled far more oil than noted in public comments by the company.