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Shell Defeats Challenge to Drilling in Beaufort and Chukchi Seas

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA)’s oil spill plans for drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas don’t violate environmental laws, a federal judge in Anchorage ruled in rejecting a challenge by conservation groups.

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By Karen Gullo: August 06, 2013

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA)’s oil spill plans for drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas don’t violate environmental laws, a federal judge in Anchorage ruled in rejecting a challenge by conservation groups.

The U.S. Interior Department’s approval process wasn’t flawed or based on erroneous assumptions and the approvals don’t violate the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act or other environmental laws, U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline ruled yesterday.

Shell halted operations off the Alaskan coast after accidents in 2012. Environmental groups including Greenpeace criticized the plans, saying oil spills above the Arctic circle would be almost impossible to clean up.

“The first court in the country said these spill plans were sufficient, but this is only the beginning of the effort to define the obligations to address oil spill prevention and response, especially in remote, isolated areas like the Arctic Ocean,” Holly Harris, an attorney for Earthjustice, a public interest law organization representing conservation groups that sued, said yesterday in a phone interview.

Curtis Smith, a spokesman for The Hague-based Shell, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail yesterday seeking comment on the ruling.

The cases are Alaska Wilderness League v. Department of Interior, 12-00010, and Shell Gulf of Mexico v. Center for Biological Diversity, 12-00048, U.S. District Court, District of Alaska (Anchorage).

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at [email protected]

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