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EPA Issues Air Permits to Shell for Arctic Offshore Drilling

September 19, 2011|Ashton Goodell | Channel 2 News

Anchorage — Shell Oil won two critical permits it needs to drill in Arctic waters off Alaska's continental shelf.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued final air quality permits Monday to the oil company for exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

This is a big step forward for the company, but there are many more permits Shell needs to operate its drills.

Shell had to cancel its drilling program this year because it lost similar battles with environmentalist groups.

The pursuit for the permit cost $60-million dollar and took five years.

Officials with Shell Oil say the new permits put the company on track for drilling by next year.

“It's been a long, frustrating, and expensive process for Shell,” said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith. “We've gone to great length to make sure our emissions do not negatively impact the environment or North Slope villages.”

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Environmentalists and Alaska Native groups are likely to challenge the permits to the EPA's environmental appeals board -- that panel struck down earlier permits.

The Center for Biological Diversity questions whether the EPA was politically pressured.

“Our federal agencies and our state agencies continue to abdicate their responsibilities and issue permits whenever Big Oil asks for them -- we are going to lose what makes Alaska so special,” said Brendan Cummings with the center.

Shell says the way things look now it will be drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas by summer 2012.

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