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Friday, October 21, 2011

Shell granted air permit for Beaufort Sea drilling

from the Alaska Dispatch, October 21, 2011
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday issued the final air discharge permit sought by Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Beaufort Sea. With the permit, Shell can use its Kulluk rig for 120 days a year in the Arctic waters, the agency said.
“This air permit is one of several federal authorizations Shell needs to explore for oil and gas” off Alaska next summer, the agency said in a news release. “EPA’s final permit significantly reduces the potential air pollution from Shell’s drilling operations.”
Shell has invested billions in Arctic leases since 2005, but hasn’t drilled any wells while opponents won delays with appeals and lawsuits. Environmental organizations and Alaska Native groups contend that in the event of a spill it will be impossible or take too long for equipment to reach the remote region.
Shell plans to drill up to three wells in the Chukchi Sea and up to two wells in the Beaufort Sea next year. The company has pursued an air permit for nearly five years.
Shell still needs Interior Department approval of its Chukchi Sea exploration plan and a permit from U.S. offshore-oil regulators for each of 10 planned wells, according to Bloomberg News. The company won the Interior Department’s approval for an exploration plan for the Beaufort Sea, near the Alaska North Slope towns of Deadhorse and Kaktovik, in August.
The Beaufort and Chukchi seas are believed to hold more than 20 billion barrels of oil.

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