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Protesters Call on EPA to Deny Shell's Air Pollution, Arctic Drilling

Common Dreams staff

Ten-year-old Isabelle Wassillie, wearing a polar bear head and holding a frozen salmon, takes part in a rally urging the Environmental Protection Agency to reject an air permit waiver request by Shell Oil, Monday, July 23, 2012 (AP Photo/Dan Joling)

Adding to the long list of reasons to ban Shell Oil from drilling in the Arctic, activists are now calling attention to Shell's outdated air quality permits, and calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to deny the company's recent request for a waiver of air quality requirements. The company needs the waiver in order to work in the Arctic.

Currently Shell's drilling rig carrier, Noble Discoverer, the same ship that ran aground earlier this month near Dutch Harbor, as well as other shell vessels, do not meet EPA air emissions requirements. The generator engines on the Discoverer tested above permit levels for ammonia and nitrous oxide.

Colin O'Brien, an attorney for Earthjustice, told the Associated press that Shell wants the waiver for a threefold increase in the emission of nitrous oxide from the Discoverer and a tenfold increase in the amount of particulate matter pollution from the Nanuq, Shell's principal oil spill response vessel.

A group of activists held a demonstration outside the Anchorage federal building on Monday urging the EPA to reject Shell's request.

"We're asking the EPA to stand up and do what's right," said Carl Wassilie, a Yup'ik Eskimo from the area and coordinator of activists group Alaska's Big Village Network.

Activists across the world have been protesting Shell's plans to drill the arctic, occupying Shell's offices in The Hague and shutting down gas Shell stations throughout the UK and Europe.

Environmental groups are now delivering more than 360,000 comments to Washington, D.C., asking the EPA to deny Shell's request.

Recently, a coalition of conservation organizations sent a letter to the EPA to uphold the requirements of the Clean Air Act and refuse Shell Oil’s request:

In this country, we have clean air and clean water because we established safeguards to protect our health, welfare, and environment. A corporate giant like Shell should not be granted an exception to these requirements simply because it wants to use equipment that does not comply...Shell Oil is clearly not ready to begin drilling for Arctic oil this summer.

The fight is one of the last remaining barriers to Shell's drilling plans.

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