Alaska Native and environmental groups have successfully thrown a wrench in Shell’s plans to drill exploration wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
An order by the Environmental Appeals Board remanded Shell Offshore Inc.’s clean air permits, which were granted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told The Associated Press that the company cannot proceed with the proposed drilling plans in 2011 without the permits.
The review by the federal board found that the EPA’s estimation of the impact on Alaska Native communities was too limited. It also contended that the agency’s analysis of impact caused by nitrogen dioxide emissions from drill ships and support vessels was inadequate.
The appeal was filed by the Arctic Eskimo Whaling Commission, the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, the Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice on behalf of other organizations.
Rebecca Noblin, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity in Anchorage, said the ruling coincides with the groups’ assertion that the EPA “rushed” the drilling permits through the process. “It’s time for the administration to take a step back and rethink the foolhardy rush to drill in the fragile Arctic Ocean,” she told the Alaska Dispatch in an e-mailed statement.