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Anchorage Daily News; Appeals court says no to Shell Arctic drilling

3-0 DECISION: The oil company says it’ll keep trying for a green light.

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Published: September 14, 2007
Last Modified: September 14, 2007 at 03:03 AM

A federal court on Thursday denied Shell’s latest request to lift an order blocking the company’s Arctic Ocean drilling.

The ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco likely dooms the Dutch oil giant’s drilling plans, at least for this year.

Shell’s lawyers had asked the court to reconsider its Aug. 15 order forbidding any offshore drilling pending resolution of legal challenges from North Slope Natives and environmental groups. A three-judge panel unanimously declined.

“We’re disappointed,” Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said. “At this point, we have to assess our options.”

On Wednesday, a day before the court ruling, Shell had announced it was releasing some of the hundreds of contract workers it had hired to support two drilling ships the company has staged in Alaska and Canadian ports.

Most likely the fleet will be disbanded, but Shell will keep working to gain clearance to drill its Beaufort oil prospects, Smith said.

Oil companies have drilled offshore wells in the Beaufort before, but the challengers say they’re wary a new round of drilling could disrupt migratory whales and pollute the water. They say federal regulators who approved Shell’s drilling plan failed to adequately assess the potential impacts.

“The court’s ‘time out’ should send a message to the federal government that they can’t continue to rubber-stamp risky drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean,” said Whit Sheard of the San Francisco environmental group Pacific Environment.

The case before the appeals court now continues with the no-drilling order in place. A hearing is expected in early December.

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