After years of whining, the Shell oil company was able to bully EPA into granting permits for offshore drilling in the Arctic. The permits were granted despite the fact that there have been no tests of spill response equipment in US Arctic waters since 2000 and those equipment tests were “a failure.”
Now it’s been given the green light to desecrate one of the last truly pristine ecosystems on the planet, Shell still isn’t satisfied. The company is now begging the Environmental Protection Agency to loosen air pollution requirements for its Discoverer drill rig–requirements it already agreed to when the permits were granted.
In its application to the agency, dated June 28, Shell said the Discoverer cannot meet the requirements for emissions of nitrogen oxide and ammonia of an air permit granted by the E.P.A. in January. The company also asked for a minor air permit modification for its Kulluk drill ship, which is also supposed to begin work in the Arctic in the coming weeks.
Somehow, it’s hard to believe that Shell has just now realized it will be impossible to keep emissions within agreed-upon limits. Instead, it seems more likely that the company said whatever it had to, and now that it has permits in hand, it’s trying to rewrite the rules.
This kind of backpedaling, coupled with the fact that the Discoverer has already been involved in an accident, isn’t exactly the way to engender public confidence in a company’s ability to work safely. After years of buying and bribing politicians Shell is used to getting what it wants, no matter how many times it breaks a promise. Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman, said he did not expect the permit changes to affect the drilling schedule.
Image via mark.bold/Flickr