The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Emilie Surrusco, Alaska Wilderness League (202) 590-7442
Colin O’Brien, Earthjustice (907) 586-2751, ext.7134
Mike Levine, Oceana (907) 586-1593
Lois Epstein, The Wilderness Society (907) 272-9453, ext.107

EPA Air Permits for Arctic Ocean Drilling Fail to Protect Health, Environment

Appeal filed challenging decision to allow Kulluk drilling unit to proceed with drilling next summer


A broad coalition appealed the U.S. EPA's approval of Shell Oil's Kulluk drilling unit air permit yesterday before the Environmental Appeals Board. The appeal comes just one month after the groups filed a similar appeal of air pollution permits issued to Shell for its Discoverer drill ship. Shell intends to use both vessels to drill in the fragile, remote, stormy and icy waters of the American Arctic Ocean starting this summer.

The challenge was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society.

The coalition issued the following statement:

"Approving the Kulluk and Discoverer permits may set an important precedent for other companies seeking to conduct exploration drilling, and the EPA has not complied with the law. The EPA's approval of the air permits is a green light from the agency for dangerous offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean as early as summer 2012. Drilling for oil in the remote and often dangerous waters of the Arctic Ocean, where 20-foot swells and hurricane-force winds accompany months-long winter darkness, is being approved despite an acknowledged lack of basic science and preparedness. Were drilling to result in an oil spill, clean-up could be nearly impossible, as the Coast Guard and other experts acknowledge.

"The challenged air pollution permit, which includes approval for the Kulluk drilling unit, two icebreakers, oil spill response vessels and a number of other vessels, will allow Shell to emit significant amounts of dangerous air pollution into the Arctic air. Each year, this fleet of vessels could emit 200 tons per year of carbon monoxide, 240 tons a year of nitrogen dioxides and 80,000 tons a year of carbon dioxide. These ships would roughly double the amount of global warming pollution produced by all of the North Slope Borough households, speeding global warming in one of the ecosystems already hardest hit by climate change."