San Francisco: Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the US federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), on Thursday defended her agency’s decision to give conditional approval to Shell’s Arctic drilling plans.
That decision, on Monday of last week, gave a spur to Shell’s already well-advanced plans to send a fleet of vessels to waters off northwest Alaska. Although a number of permits and clearances are still needed, the nod from BOEM, a branch of the Department of the Interior was seen as tantamount to a green light to Shell.
Even though it is conditional on Shell convincing BOEM that it is capable of containment and clean-up in the event of a spill in the Chukchi Sea, most observers think Shell will have no problem doing so.
BOEM’s decision brought a storm of wrath from environmentalists but on Thursday Hopper made no apology. She said it is part of an overall plan to diversify the nation’s energy supply and grow US oil and gas resources for national security reasons.
She also pointed out that In addition, the administration has crafted Arctic drilling rules aimed at preventing the likelihood of a drilling disaster. These include a requirement for inspectors with Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to be on Arctic rigs at all times they are drilling.
And another rule requires Shell have a secondary rig nearby to drill a relief well in the event of a blowout, Rules like that have drawn criticism from the industry for being prohibitively expensive.