Appeal launched against Shell air quality permits
The Native Village of Point Hope, and eight environmental organizations, including Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (or REDOIL), appealed yesterday to the Environmental Appeals Board against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to issue major air quality permits for Shell’s planned exploration drilling using the drillship Frontier Discoverer in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The Environmental Appeals Board is the final adjudicator over EPA decisions — an appeal to the board is an essential precursor to any appeal through the court system over an EPA action.
The disputed EPA permits cover operations by the Frontier Discover while the drillship is secured at a drill site, and operations by vessels in the drillship’s support fleet when those vessels are within 25 miles of a drilling operation.
The essence of the appeal against the air quality permits is a claim that EPA has not required best available emissions control technology for vessels in the support fleet, despite the fact that the permits do stipulate this control technology standard for the drillship itself.
“Over 90 percent of the air pollution from Shell’s drilling operations would come from Shell’s icebreakers and other associated vessels,” Pacific Environment, one of the organizations launching the appeal, said today. “However, the permits challenged yesterday would only apply control technology limits to Shell’s drillship, a relatively minor source of pollution from Shell’s operations, and not to these associated vessels and icebreakers.”
“We have worked exceptionally hard to ensure our emissions footprint in the Arctic is as small as possible,” Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told Petroleum News today. “Even without an air permit in hand, Shell made the decision to retro-fit our drilling rig, the Frontier Discoverer, with best available emissions control technology at a cost of $25 million. That upgrade, combined with the use of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel on all of our vessels, means Shell is not only meeting emissions requirements for operating in the Arctic, but far exceeding them.”
FWS issues draft economic analysis for polar bear critical habitat
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued its draft economic analysis of the critical habitat designation for the polar bear. In October Fish and Wildlife proposed the critical habitat for the bear as a follow up to the May 2008 listing of the animals as threatened, under the terms of the Endangered Species Act — the ESA requires an assessment of the economic ramifications of the critical habitat designation prior to a final ruling on that designation.
The proposed critical habitat area encompasses 200,541 square miles of territory covering large tracts of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, and including some coastal land where some polar bears den in the winter.
Fish and Wildlife says that polar bears already receive significant protection under the Marine Mammals Protection Act and as a consequence of their threatened status under the ESA. Consequently, the main economic impact of the critical habitat designation would be a need for additional government agency consultation under section seven of the ESA, resulting in a the total cost amounting to a present value of $669,000 over the period 2010 to 2039, Fish and Wildlife says.
Editor’s note: See story in May 9 issue of Petroleum News, available online to subscribers on Friday, May 7 at www.PetroleumNews.com.