Shell gets EPA permit to drill in Alaska's Chukchi Sea

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a clean-air permit for Shell's plan to drill for oil and gas in Alaska's Chukchi Sea this summer, the EPA said.

The oil company said that obtaining the permit was critical to its decision on whether to proceed with exploration drilling in the Arctic sea this summer. Lawsuits over the federal government's leasing of tracts in the Chukchi to Shell and other companies in 2008 also are clouding the oil company's drilling decision.

A Shell Alaska spokesman said Wednesday, in praising the U.S. Interior Department's plan announced that day to allow drilling on the 2008 leases, "The issuance of draft Chukchi and Beaufort air permits earlier this year started a timeline of events that will ultimately dictate Shell's drilling plans for 2010. As of today, we are still planning to drill in 2010 and remain optimistic that our final Chukchi and Beaufort sea air permits will be issued soon."

The proposed permit authorizes Shell to conduct a multiyear exploratory oil and gas drilling program with the Frontier Discoverer drillship and support fleet, the EPA said.

Alaska U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said today, "Approval of Shell's clean-air permit for Chukchi Sea development is great news for Alaska and hopefully is a sign of much more responsible oil and gas development to come in Alaska's resource-rich offshore."

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