By Kathryn Stone 2015-06-02 17:17:44
Twelve environmental groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging Royal Dutch Shell’s drilling permits off the north-west coast of Alaska.
Earthjustice filed the suit in San Francisco’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in hopes of stalling the oil giant’s exploratory drilling plan in the Chukchi Sea, which is set to begin July. The environmentalist claim that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) review of Shell’s drilling plan was rushed and failed to accurately address the ecological impact of Shell’s efforts.
“Shell’s approved exploration plan is even bigger, dirtier, and louder than 2012, including the use of two drilling rigs in a concentrated area and a bigger armada of vessels, all posing a threat to wildlife including whales, walruses and seals, as well as air and water pollution discharges,” Earthjustice claimed in a written statement.
The groups have obtained two prior court rulings indicating that the environmental anlysis for the 2008 Arctic lease contained mistakes. However, the U.S. Interior reported that all problems had been corrected as of March.
In May BOEM gave Shell conditional approval for the two-year drilling plan. Director Abigail Ross Hopper stated that, “We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea, recognizing the significant environmental, social and ecological resources in the region and establishing high standards for the protection of this critical ecosystem, our Arctic communities, and the subsistence needs and cultural traditions of Alaska Natives. As we move forward, any offshore exploratory activities will continue to be subject to rigorous safety standards.”
Shell has previously stated that it expects these types of legal challenges and that its exploration plan will be able to withstand legal scrutiny. Additionally, Shell has said that it would be able to mobilize onsite oil spill assets within one hour should an incident in the Arctic occur.
Today’s lawsuit follows over two weeks of protests in the state of Washington as Shell readies its fleet in preparation for drilling this summer.