Ten major environmental groups filed a lawsuit on June 2 challenging the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM) approval of Royal Dutch Shell's exploration plan for drilling in the Chukchi Sea this summer.
The lawsuit seeks a review of permits granted to Royal Dutch Shell PLC by the BOEM for exploratory drilling in the Chukchi (chuk-CHEE’) Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast.
Shell paid $2.1 billion for its Arctic leases. The oil giant intends
to drill six exploratory wells this summer at a site about 75 miles northwest of the Alaska hamlet
Although Shell still needs drilling permits and other government authorizations, the ocean energy bureau's approval of its exploration plan was a significant milestone.
Drilling in the Arctic Ocean region is opposed by environmental groups that contend oil companies are not equipped to deal with a major blowout or spill in a part of the world lacking deep-water ports, major airports and other infrastructure routinely present in other drilling areas. They also say drilling will harm wildlife already hurt by the effects of climate warming.
“Drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean will
only hasten climate change at what is already ground zero for global warming,” said Erik Grafe of Earthjustice, which is handling the legal action.
The groups say federal regulators’ review of the Shell exploratory drilling plan was cursory.
Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said the company expected its plan would be challenged in court "by many of the same organizations that have historically used legal maneuvers to delay Arctic exploration."
The Arctic is estimated to contain about 20 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and natural gas, but its recovery could be decades away.