San Francisco: Green groups have renewed their calls for the US government to deny Shell its permits for Arctic drilling, work that the company expects to begin in a matter of weeks with preliminary work due to start even sooner.
Events surrounding the icebreaker Fennica have given the anti-drilling campaigners motivation for their latest, late attempt to block the oil company’s plans to resume Arctic activity after a three-year hiatus.
Shell has cleared all bar two of the administrative hurdles, with two final authorisations, called applications for permits to drill, required from the Interior Department.
But, in a letter to the Interior Department, 10 environmental groups have said that Shell should not be allowed to start its work in the Chukchi Sea until the damaged Fennica is back from being repaired at a shipyard in Portland, Oregon. The Fennica is carrying a capping stack, a vital piece of emergency equipment that could be used to contain a blown-out well.
Shell maintains it can proceed with preparatory drilling in the waters off Alaska before the Fennica returns to the region as long as it does not go to the undersea zone that contains oil and gas.
But the protesters say that the manner in which the Fennica incurred its damage – a 39-inch gash in the hull – while travelling over a rocky shoal on the Alaska shoreline indicates that the company still has not shed its previous pattern of risky behaviour.
That pattern was characterised, critics say, by the problematic way that its 2012 Arctic campaign came to an end amidst a number of safety concerns and with the grounding of the rig Kulluk.