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August 05, 2013 --- Vol. 19, No. 52August 2013

District court upholds Shell Arctic spill response plans

The federal District Court in Alaska yesterday issued an order upholding Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE, approval of Shell’s oil spill response plans for the company’s planned exploration drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas. The court order related to two consolidated court cases. In the first of these cases, filed in February 2012, Shell had attempted to pre-empt legal action against its plans by asking the court to declare that the oil spill response plan approvals were legal and valid. In the second case, filed in July 2012, a group of environmental organizations had appealed the plan approvals, claiming that the approvals violated the federal Administrative Procedures Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

In yesterday’s court order District Judge Ralph Beistline said that BSEE had fully complied with all federal statutes and regulations when approving Shell’s response plans. Beistline upheld Shell’s request for a declaration that the plan approvals were valid while dismissing the appeal against those approvals.

“The ruling is welcome news and validates that the Department of Interior was thorough in its analysis of Shell’s oil spill response plans for work offshore Alaska,” Shell spokeswoman Megan Baldino told Petroleum News in response to Beistline’s decision.

Shell originally filed its oil spill response plans in anticipation of starting its Alaska Arctic offshore exploration drilling program during the open water season of 2012. In the event, although the company started the drilling of one well each in the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea during that season, the wells were not drilled down to hydrocarbon bearing zones. The company has since deferred further drilling until 2014 at the earliest.

—Alan Bailey

See stories in Aug. 11 issue, available online at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 9, at www.PetroleumNews.com

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