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Shell Denies Asking for Delay in Drilling Plan

The Associated Press

Shell president denies asking for delay in Alaska offshore drilling plan; feds refute that

By MATTHEW DALY Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON November 19, 2009 (AP)

The president of Shell Oil Co. says the company did not ask a federal agency to delay a decision on the company’s request to drill for oil and gas in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.

Shell President Marvin Odum said after a Senate hearing Thursday that he only knew what he “read in the papers” about the delay granted this week by the Interior Department, adding that Shell did not request it. But a letter from the Minerals Management Service, an arm of the Interior Department, says Shell requested the delay so it can respond to a deluge of public comments on the drilling proposal.

The Nov. 17 letter from John Goll, regional director of the Minerals Management Service, says Shell has 10 days from the receipt of the letter to respond to comments. The agency had been expected to decide on the drilling proposal by Friday but has now been delayed until at least Nov. 27.

A Shell spokesman Thursday tried to clarify Odum’s remarks.

“If there is confusion in any communication, we are sorting this out with the MMS and DOI, and will continue to work with them constructively to move this forward,” spokesman Bill Tanner said in an e-mail.

Emilie Surrusco, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Wilderness League, which opposes offshore drilling, said she hoped Shell was not getting preferential from the Minerals Management Service, where workers have been reprimanded for partying, having sex and using drugs with oil and gas industry representatives, as well as accepting gifts from them. A former MMS employee was sentenced to probation earlier this year for failing to report a $2,500 hunting trip he received from an oil industry contractor while working in the scandal-ridden agency, which regulates oil and gas operations on leased federal property.

“We would hope that other interests will be afforded the same opportunity to review Shell’s response to the comments before the MMS makes a decision on the Chukchi exploration plan,” Surrusco said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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