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Shell Seeks to Weaken Air Rules for Arctic Drilling

By JOHN M. BRODER: July 13, 2012, 2:56 pm

Shell has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to loosen air pollution requirements for its Discoverer drill rig, which is planning to begin exploratory drilling operations off the North Slope of Alaska early next month.

In its application to the agency, dated June 28, Shell said the Discoverer cannot meet the requirements for emissions of nitrogen oxide and ammonia of an air permit granted by the E.P.A. in January. The company also asked for a minor air permit modification for its Kulluk drill ship, which is also supposed to begin work in the Arctic in the coming weeks.

An E.P.A. spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing the applications. Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman, said he did not expect the permit changes to affect the drilling schedule, which has been set back several weeks because of unusually heavy sea ice.

Greenpeace and other groups opposed to oil and gas exploration in the Arctic said that Shell was trying at the 11th hour to change the terms under which it was granted permission to drill.

““This is a classic bait-and-switch,” Greenpeace’s executive director, Phil Radford, said. “Shell promises the E.P.A. — and by extension, the American people — anything that will allow it to get permits to drill the Arctic, and then at the last minute, Shell says it won’t abide by its agreement and wants the E.P.A. to issue watered-down permits with no process whatsoever.

“This is just one more in a litany of broken promises from Shell when it comes to drilling in the Arctic,” he said.


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