Days ago, a federal board sided with Alaska Native and environmental groups to send Royal Dutch Shell’s air quality permits back to the Environmental Protection Agency for further review.
The Arctic Eskimo Whaling Commission, the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, the Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice were responsible for filing the timely appeal.
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After the disastrous BP oil spill in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar placed an indefinite ban on new arctic drilling in Alaska’s delicate Chukchi and Beaufort seas until more information was available about the potential environmental impact a similar spill could have in their freezing waters.
According to a report by Alaska Dispatch’s Patti Epler, the most recent order by the Environmental Appeals Board “invalidates Shell Offshore Inc.’s permits for both the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
“It said the EPA had failed to adequately consider the impact of nitrogen dioxide emissions during drilling operations on nearby communities and that the agency erroneously determined when a drillship, the Frontier Discoverer, would be subject to air quality issues.”
Once again, there are concerns that the environmental review and permitting process may have been rushed in order to allow Shell to meet its agressive 2011 drilling schedule.
Similar “favors” provided to the oil industry by the former Minerals Management Service have been included as one of many factors responsible for the unsafe drilling practices that led to the tragic Gulf oil spill.
In addition to more careful review of environmental impact statements, Shell’s desire to drilling in these fragile arctic areas is further impeded by the fact that the Obama administration recently agreed to designate more than 187,000 square miles of Arctic coast as critical polar bear habitat.
Still, a representative of the oil company told the Alaska Dispatch that Shell is not giving up on drilling this summer. “We’ll be looking to see if we can continue the momentum into this new year,” he said.
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