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July 01, 2011 --- Vol. 17, No. 60July 2011

EPA releases draft air permits for Shell drilling, appeals restricted

Following the 2010 Environmental Appeals Board remand of Shell’s air quality permits for the company’s planned Arctic outer continental shelf exploration drilling, the Environmental Protection Agency has released new draft permits for public review. The air quality permits form a particularly critical component of the permitting requirements for Shell’s OCS plans, with appeals over permit issuance being a major factor in past deferrals of company’s Arctic OCS drilling program.

Shell wants to drill in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas during the 2012 Arctic open water season.

The new draft permits address all of the various points that the EAB had upheld in the appeal against the original versions of the permits. For example, EPA has changed its specification of what constitutes a stationary emissions source during a drilling operation, and has included the requirements of new nitrogen oxides emissions standards in the permits. Following directions from the EAB, EPA has incorporated all new applicable air quality standards, including new stipulations for the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA says that, in accordance with orders issued by the EAB, any appeal against the new versions of the permits will be restricted to challenges over issues already raised in the EAB appeal case, and over issues addressed by EPA as a result of the EAB remand. People cannot appeal new issues that could have been raised in the appeals over the original versions of the permits.

Escopeta gets C-plan approved; Foss tugs to pick up rig July 7

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has approved Escopeta Oil’s spill plan for its offshore drilling program in the Cook Inlet basin.

The Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan, generally referred to as a C-plan, was approved yesterday.

The Spartan 151 jack-up rig, contracted by Escopeta for its Kitchen Lights unit exploration that is expected to start this summer, will be picked up July 7 by Foss Maritime tugs and towed to Alaska from Victoria, British Columbia.

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