Business, Economics and Jobs

Shell overcomes final hurdle to drill in the Arctic


Greenpeace protesters scale the pillars of the National Gallery in central London, on February 21, 2012, as they unfurl a banner in protest at oil firm Shell's plans for drilling oil in the Arctic.


Justin Tallis

Shell overcame its last legal hurdle to Arctic drilling Wednesday after US federal regulators approved a proposed plan on how the company would deal with possible oil spills near Alaska.

The decision was made by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement - part of the Department of the Interior - which said that Shell was prepared in the event of a spill in the Beaufort Sea near Alaska, echoing a February ruling that applied to the nearby Chukchi Sea.

According to Bloomberg, Shell hopes to drill exploratory wells in both Beaufort and Chukchi Seas during the warmer season using separate drilling ships.

The ruling came after the Dept. of the Interior set the strictest criteria ever produced, according to the New Scientist, asking Shell to prove that it could contain a spill three times of the size of 2010 Deepwater Horizon leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Shell reported that it would use a cap similar to that used in the 2010 disaster and then provide extensive back-up measures if that failed.

"It further reinforces that Shell's approach to Arctic exploration is aligned with the high standards the Department of Interior expects from an offshore leader and adds to our confidence that drilling will finally commence in the shallow waters off Alaska this summer," said Curtis Smith of Shell Alaska, according to Bloomberg.

The ruling is a blow to environmental groups opposed to Arctic drilling.

In a separate ruling this week, a US federal judge ordered representatives of Greenpeace to stay a kilometer away from Shell ships destined for Arctic Ocean waters off Alaska, reported the Associated Press.

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