The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release


Arctic Oil Drilling to Pump Pollution into Pristine Skies

Groups file lawsuit challenging EPA air pollution permit for Shell Oil

Anchorage, AK

A day after more than 1 million people urged President Barack Obama to reject plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer, a coalition of groups today filed a lawsuit in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's air pollution discharge permit for Shell's Kulluk offshore drilling unit and associated fleet of vessels for use in the Beaufort Sea.

Number of People with Family Earnings Below Poverty Remains Way Up

The permit was issued finally on May 8. Shell intends to use the Kulluk to drill in the fragile, remote, stormy and icy waters of the American Arctic Ocean starting this July.

Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environment Center, Pacific Environment, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society filed the challenge, represented by Earthjustice. The organizations issued the following statement regarding the lawsuit:

"As early as this summer, the Kulluk drilling unit and other vessels in Shell's fleet could be in the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean where they will pump tens of thousands of tons of pollution into pristine Arctic skies. Not only will they be drilling for oil in some of the harshest conditions on earth, each year, these ships will emit large amounts of harmful air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Further, industrial carbon pollution, including black carbon, from the Kulluk fleet is expected to accelerate the loss of snow and sea ice in the Arctic, to the detriment of both the fragile Arctic ecosystem and members of Alaska Native communities that rely upon a healthy ecosystem for subsistence and other traditional cultural activities.

"The EPA approved these permits without ensuring that all air quality requirements are met and without requiring Shell to install all the controls it should have.

"In addition to the excess air pollution from the Kulluk and its support fleet, Shell's drilling poses other risks. Drilling for oil in the remote waters of the Arctic Ocean is risky and fraught with potential disaster. An oil spill in these waters would devastate nearby communities and have significant impacts on endangered or threatened species such as bowhead whales and polar bears."

Read the petition for review.


Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098

Kristen Miller, Alaska Wilderness League, (202) 544-5205

Brendan Cummings, Center for Biological Diversity, (760) 366-2232

Bob Keefe, Natural Resources Defense Council, (202) 289-2373

Pamela A. Miller, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, (907) 452-5021, ext. 24

Colleen Keane, Pacific Environment, (206) 734-9300

Faith Gemmill, Resisting Environmental Destruction On Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), (907) 750-0188

Dan Ritzman, Sierra Club, (206) 499-5764

Lois Epstein, The Wilderness Society, (907) 272-9453, ext. 107

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.