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The Anchorage Daily News: Federal court blocks Shell drilling in Arctic

By WESLEY LOY
[email protected]

Published: August 15, 2007
Last Modified: August 15, 2007 at 12:44 PM

A federal appeals court today extended its order blocking Dutch oil giant Shell’s planned exploratory drilling campaign in the Beaufort Sea.

The order is a victory for environmental groups and North Slope residents who argued noisy oil industry activity could drive bowhead whales out of reach of subsistence hunters and who accused federal regulators of performing shoddy environmental studies of the potential effects of drilling.

For Shell, it’s a costly setback.

The company has assembled a fleet of drilling ships and support vessels but has been unable to proceed with exploring its Sivulliq prospect about 16 miles off Point Thomson due to the court challenge plus a lack of federal air pollution permits. Much of the fleet is sitting in Dutch Harbor.

Judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the challengers to Shell’s plans had shown a “probability of success” in the case and “raised serious questions” of potential harm.

Today’s ruling extends the hold the court originally placed on Shell’s operations on July 19.

The ruling suggests the hold could stay in place at least until early December, which would doom Shell’s chances of starting its drilling before the Beaufort Sea freezes this fall.

http://www.adn.com/front/story/9222696p-9138845c.html

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