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For Immediate Release, November 29, 2011

Contact:  Colin O’Brien, Earthjustice, (907) 586-2751 x 7134
Vera Pardee, Center for Biological Diversity, (858) 717 1448
Emilie Surrusco, Alaska Wilderness League, (202) 590 7442
Mike Levine, Oceana, (907) 586-1593
Lois Epstein, The Wilderness Society, (907) 272-9453 x 107

Appeal Challenges Shell's Air Permits for Arctic Oil Drilling

ANCHORAGE, Alaska— A broad coalition of conservation groups appealed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to issue an air pollution permit for Shell Oil’s ship, the Kulluk, to drill for oil in the Arctic. The appeal was filed Monday with the federal Environmental Appeals Board. The move comes just one month after the groups filed a similar appeal of air permits issued to Shell for its Discoverer drill ship. Shell intends to use both vessels and their associated fleets to drill in the fragile, remote and dangerous waters of the U.S. Arctic Ocean starting next summer.

The challenged air-pollution permit, which covers the Kulluk drill ship, two icebreakers, oil-spill response vessels and a number of other vessels, will allow Shell to emit significant amounts of dangerous air pollution into the Arctic air.

Each year, this fleet of vessels could emit 200 tons of carbon monoxide, 240 tons of nitrogen dioxides and 80,000 tons of carbon dioxide. These ships would roughly double the amount of global warming pollution produced by all of Alaska’s North Slope Borough households, speeding global warming in one of the ecosystems already hardest hit by climate change.

The EPA’s approval of the Kulluk air permits means the agency is green-lighting dangerous offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean as early as summer 2012. Drilling for oil in the fragile and often dangerous waters of the Arctic Ocean, where 20-foot swells and hurricane-force winds accompany months-long winter darkness, is simply too risky. The U.S. Coast Guard and other experts acknowledge that a spill in the Arctic waters would be nearly impossible to clean up. 

“These air permits violate the Clean Air Act and open the door to dangerous drilling in the Arctic,” said Vera Pardee of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Rather than turning the pristine Arctic into an industrial zone, the Obama administration should be focusing on safer, cleaner sources of energy.“

Earthjustice is challenging the EPA air permits as exceeding pollution limits in violation of the Clean Air Act. The appeal is being filed on behalf of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL), Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Oceana, Pacific Environment, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society.

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