Shell Oil: More Drilling, Less Regulation!

Shell Oil has proposed to drill ten exploratory wells in the Arctic Ocean in 2012-13, a major expansion of an earlier proposal to drill three wells in 2011.  Citing Shell’s “world-class capabilities” and numerous safeguards in place, the company expressed optimism that the Obama Administration will approve its plans.

In related news not announced by Shell, the company continues its efforts to limit environmental oversight of its operations.  Shell has twice tried to obtain “minor source” air quality permits under the Clean Air Act, for example, which unlike “major source” permits do not require the application of “best available technology,” usually considered a component of “world-class” equipment and operations.  Each time, the Environmental Appeals Board rejected the less-stringent permit for not complying with the Clean Air Act.  Shell also voluntary withdrew a third “minor source” permit it had persuaded EPA to issue. 

Shell blames EPA for five years of permitting delay rather than its own insistence on weak permits resting on shaky grounds, and the oil industry’s friends in Congress are singing the same tune.  Shell testified at a recent hearing of the House Energy and Power subcommittee in support of a bill that would conveniently eliminate the pesky Environmental Appeals Board, also arguing that the “focus is on air quality at the onshore locations, not the offshore locations.  This is consistent with the purpose of the Clean Air Act, i.e., to protect public health and the environment.”

Um, right, because unlike pollution on land, pollution in the water is not important for public health or the environment.

These are the people we’re supposed to trust to operate safely and responsibly in the Arctic?