US EPA to Grant Shell Request for Alaska Air-Quality Permit Changes

WASHINGTON - U.S. regulators granted a request from Royal Dutch Shell PLC to alter the terms of an air pollution permit for the company's Alaska drilling activities, removing a potential headache for the company as it proceeds to drill in the Arctic Ocean for the first time in decades.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would issue an order setting new air pollution limits for Shell's activities, which include running diesel engines on its drill ship in the Chukchi Sea. Without the order, Shell would have faced fines for violations of clean-air rules and negative headlines around its closely-watched efforts in Alaska.

Shell in June told the agency that emissions from the engines exceeded the limits established in the original permit and asked for the permit to be changed to levels that are "achievable."

A Shell spokesman said Friday that the EPA's decision was "more good news" one day after the company received a permit from the Interior Department to start drilling to a depth of about 1400 feet below the floor of the Chukchi. That work could be underway within days, although the company still may not have enough time to complete the well by a Sept. 24 deadline set by U.S. regulators.

Shell still needs a second permit to drill deeper into oil-bearing formations and must complete work on an oil-spill response boat before receiving that permit.  

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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