Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Shell Gets Two More Permits for Arctic Drilling

The runners are greased for Shell's drilling program in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea this summer. The latest permits came last week from the Environmental Protection Agency for discharge of wastewater from Shell's contracted drilling rigs, the Polar Pioneer and Noble Discoverer. The EPA permits cover 13 separate waste streams.  Dishcharged waste fluids could include toxic drilling mud that would pollute the relatively unpolluted waters of the Arctic. Polar Pioneer left Seattle yesterday leaving behind twenty-four protesters arrested by police for attempting to block the rig's northward progress with their kayaks. During Shell's last exploration season in 2012 the company did not dishcarge drilling muds into the Beaufort Sea under an agreement with Inupiats living on the North Slope. Instead the company transferred the fluids to the Chukchi Sea, farther from the North Slope. The company has just four remaining permits to obtain before beginning legal operations. Two of those are "incidental harassment" authorizations allowing Shell to disturb marine and animal life in the area. The Interior Department put out-of-boundsa major walrus habitat, but the remote site of Shell's six exploratory wells are home to an estimated 2,000 polar bears and the feeding grounds for gray and bowhead whales. The two outstanding authorizations are drilling permits now under review at the Burea of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, part of the Department of Interior. Expect those shortly.