April 01, 2010 --- Vol. 16, No. 24April 2010

EPA issues Shell’s Chukchi Sea air permit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an air quality permit for Shell’s planned exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea, offshore northern Alaska. The issuance of the permit, a key regulatory step for government approval of Shell’s planned Chukchi Sea activities, has come some six weeks after the Feb. 17 end of the permit’s public comment period.

EPA said that it had carefully considered numerous written and oral comments during the public comment period before deciding to issue the permit.

Shell plans to drill up to three exploration wells in the Chukchi Sea in 2010, and the company applied for a major prevention of significant deterioration air quality permit, rather than a minor permit, for the drilling. Shell is still waiting for an EPA decision on a similar proposed air quality permit for the company’s proposed 2010 Beaufort Sea drilling — the public comment period for that permit ended on March 22.

“The issuance of our final Chukchi Sea air permit on the heels of yesterday’s announcement that Shell will continue to have access to offshore acreage purchased in (Chukchi Sea) lease sale 193 is excellent news,” Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said today. “It’s our hope the final Beaufort Sea air permit will soon follow so that we can continue to move forward with our 2010 drilling program. While today’s news is very encouraging, we still have work to do to achieve our goal of drilling in 2010, including the resolution of pending and potential legal challenges.”

Parnell again asks for reconsideration of NPR-A decision

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has again requested that the U.S. Corps of Engineers re-evaluate its denial of ConocoPhillips’ permit to construct drill pad CD-5 in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The governor maintains the permit application should have been elevated to a higher office within the Corps.

In a second letter to Colonel Reinhard W. Koenig, the Corps’ Alaska district commander, the governor requested that the decision be vacated and the permit application elevated to the division engineer.

Parnell said he was “again, asking that you reconsider or withdraw your determination not to elevate the permit decision on ConocoPhillips’ CD-5 permit application to the Division Engineer.”

The governor said he believes that referral is appropriate and said he made his support of the permit application “abundantly clear” when he met with Koenig in December.

Koenig has said Parnell’s communication did not trigger elevation as described in federal regulations. Parnell said “the overly literal interpretation seems unreasonable.”

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