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AFX Europe (Focus): Shell Alaska drilling project blocked by US appeals court

Published: Aug 16, 2007

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Thomson Financial – A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Royal Dutch Shell PLC must further postpone plans for exploratory drilling off the northern coast of Alaska.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also indicated that environmental and Alaska Native groups have a good chance of prevailing in their effort to keep the energy giant out of the Beaufort Sea.

Petitioners, including the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission and the Center for Biological Diversity, have “raised serious questions and demonstrated that the balance of hardships tips sharply in their favor,” the ruling said.

The appeals court’s decision bans Shell from exploration activities pending a review of anti-drilling petitions. It comes after the court ordered a monthlong halt to drilling in July.

Shell was the high bidder in two recent lease sales for offshore tracts in the Arctic. In 2005, Shell Exploration & Production Co., part of Royal Dutch Shell, spent more than $44 million for offshore leases in the Beaufort Sea.

In April, the company intensified its program by bidding $39 million for offshore leases, including more than $14 million for Flaxman Island northwest of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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