San Francisco: Shell’s planned return to Arctic waters for oil drilling cleared another hurdle on Thursday when a federal appeals court rejected a coalition of green groups’ claim against the oil giant.
Environmentalists, with the group Earthjustice prominent, had contended that the Department of the Interior had acted unlawfully in approving plans for leases in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2005, 2007 and 2009.
But a three-judge panel for San Francisco’s Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals found, in a 2-1 split decision, in favour of the department.
The Court said the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, part of the Department of the Interior, did nothing wrong in approving the plans, which relate to Shell oil leases in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas from 2005, 2007 and 2008.
The main issue was the oil spill response plans Shell submitted. Opponents challenged Shell’s unsupported assumption that it could recover 90 percent to 95 percent of any oil spilled.
Shell is readying its fleet, which has been moored in and around Seattle, to begin drilling this summer. One vessel, a spill containment barge called the Arctic Challenger, left Washington State for Alaska on Thursday.