Shell Oil notified of multiple violations in Arctic drilling program

The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits grounded 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2012. The Kulluk grounded after many efforts by tug vessel crews and Coast Guard crews to move the vessel to safe harbor during a winter storm. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter.

The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits grounded 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2012. The Kulluk grounded after many efforts by tug vessel crews and Coast Guard crews to move the vessel to safe harbor during a winter storm. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter.

Company responds to violations by asking for permission to emit more pollution

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Environmental groups say numerous and ongoing violations of the Clean Air Act stemming from Shell’s ongoing efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean are yet another sign that the company isn’t prepared to operate in the pristine environment off the north coast of Alaska.

Most recently, the EPA issued notices of violation for failures to install required air pollution control technology, for failures to maintain and calibrate the equipment it is using and for violating emission standards set to protect human health and ambient air quality.

During a September inspecting on the Discover, EPA officials found that callibration devices to be used for measuring stack emissions “were still in their shipping containers and had not yet been used by the technician performing the weekly testing required by the Permit … “

Read the notice of violation for the Discoverer here.

“Shell’s operations this summer repeatedly violated the terms of its air permits,” said Earthjustice attorney Colin O’Brien, who is battling in court over Shell’s air quality permits.

“Both the Discoverer and Kulluk were cited by EPA for violating’ numerous’ conditions of their air permits. The Discoverer violated its original permit, and also violated the more lenient interim limits of the administrative compliance order that EPA issued at the start of the drilling season,” O’Brien said in a statement. The notice of violation for the Kulluk is online here.

O’Brien said the EPA could negotiate penalties or a consent decree with Shell to address the violations. He explained that Shell has also requested changes to its permits, asking to emit more pollutants, including an additional 30 tons of nitrogen oxides.

It may not sound like much, but it shows that, incrementally, the environmental impacts of Arctic drilling are likely to creep upward on the charts.

O’Brien explained that the permits, issued under the Clean Air Act, are aimed at protecting both human health and ambient air quality in the pristine Arctic environment.

“The violations speak to a lack of conscientious management,’ he said.

The EPA violation notices indicate that Shell was conscientious about reporting some of the violations, but also that the company failed to install and maintain other required pollution control equipment.

“The permit limits reflect a cap on pollution limits for the entire enterprise, and for individual components … They’ve had several bites at this apple and haven’t been able to get it right,” O’Brien said.

“All told, for the Discoverer’s 43 days of operation, Shell filed 32 reports detailing permit violations.  On at least 25 occasions, the reported violations entailed pollution emissions that exceeded the levels allowed by the permit or compliance order. The emission limits were intended to prevent Shell from polluting at unhealthy and environmentally consequential levels.  Shell’s response has been to request that its air permit for the Discoverer be weakened further,” he said.

“The bottom line is that the Obama administration acted in too much haste last year when it gave Shell permits to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean. That seems clear now, with EPA withdrawing their permission for the Discoverer after Shell apparently ignored the lenient air pollution rules the company itself negotiated,” he concluded.

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One Response

  1. [...] a string of incidents, including failed tests of oil spill containment gear, runaway ships and notices for violations of environmental regulations, Royal Dutch Shell today said it will press the pause button on its [...]

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