Court Rejects Environmentalists' Claim Against Shell
A federal appeals court rejected a claim seeking to halt Royal Dutch Shell’s drilling efforts off Alaska’s Arctic Coast.
A three-judge panel for San Francisco’s Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) had not acted unlawfully in approving plans for leases in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2005, 2007 and 2009. The panel’s decision was split 2-1 with Judge D.W. Nelson claiming that BOEM should have reviewed Shell’s plans more closely in accordance with the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act before approving the leases.
The claim was brought earlier this month by Earthjustice on behalf of twelve environmental groups.
Many environmental advocates oppose offshore energy exploration in the Arctic, on concern that any spill might prove difficult to clean up once production begins. The state of Washington has also been the scene of numerous protests as activist seek to halt Shell’s drilling operations.
Director Abigail Ross Hopper has stated that BOEM set forth a high set of standards in order to protect the Arctic environment and ecosystem and Shell previously commented that it was confident its exploration plans would withstand legal scrutiny.
Shell is currently readying its fleet to begin drilling this summer, and one vessel has now left Washington state for Alaska, the company said on Thursday. The Arctic Challenger, an oil spill containment barge, has left Bellingham, north of Seattle, and is headed toward Dutch Harbor, in Unalaska, off mainland Alaska. The Arctic Challenger is one of about two dozen support vessels that will accompany drilling rigs.