Conservation groups challenge federal rules on ‘incidental take’
FRISCO — Conservation groups this week opened another front in their ongoing battle to block irresponsible fossil fuel exploitation in the Arctic. Represented by Earthjustice, wildlife advocates and Native Americans went to court to block a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule that would allow oil companies to harm Pacific walruses.
Harassment of prominent researcher likely aimed at stifling scientists
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — A scientist who was targeted by a politically driven investigation has retired from the federal agency that is supposed to regulate oil development in the Arctic after settling his whistleblower complaint against the U.S. Department of Interior.
Dr. Charles Monnett, a senior scientist with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, was hectored for several years after publishing observations about drowning polar bears. The witch hunt ended in October with the Department of Interior withdrawing its letter of reprimand and paying Monnett $100,000.
Future plans for Arctic drilling still not finalized
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — A string of air quality violations related to Shell’s efforts to drill for oil off the north coast of Alaska have resulted in a $1.1 million fine — a drop in the bucket for a company that reported more than $20 billion in profits last year.
Among other violations, the EPA found that Shell failed to install required air pollution control equipment, showing a lack of conscientious management, according to conservation groups opposed to offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean.
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.
The Department of Interior acknowledged the problems Shell encountered in connection with certification of its containment vessel, the Arctic Challenger; the deployment of its containment dome; and operational issues associated with its two drilling rigs, the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk. Continue reading “Feds to review Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling program”→
FRISCO — A grounded Shell oil-drilling rig appears to be upright and stable along the coastline of an Alaska island, with no apparent signs of environmental contamination yet, according to the latest update from the response team.
No details have been announced about how Shell plans to recover the grounded rig, the latest in a string of incidents and problems involving the company’s Arctic drilling equipment.
The Kulluk was part of the Shell’s test drilling program last summer. According to the company, the vessel is loaded with about 139,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 12,000 gallons of other oil-based drilling and mechanical fluids.
The incident started Dec. 28, when the tow barge, the MV Aiviq, lost power while towing the Kulluk off the coast of Kodiak Island. Crews were able to restore power to one of the Aiviq’s four main engines, but that wasn’t enough to prevent the drilling rig from breaking free and running aground on the shore of Sitkalidak Island, about 250 miles south of Anchorage.
A team of six salvage experts boarded the grounded drilling unit Kulluk Thursday to conduct a structural assessment to be used to finalize salvage plans.
The six-member team was lowered to the Kulluk by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter at about 10:30 this morning. The assessment lasted about three hours. The Coast Guard helicopter and crew also delivered a state-owned emergency towing system to the Kulluk, which will be used during salvage operations.
Smit Salvage is heading up salvage operations. Smit is a highly experienced salvage company that has assisted in hundreds of operations worldwide, including the Selendang Ayu salvage that took place off the coast of Western Unalaska in 2004. It also assisted in the Costa Concordia salvage off the coast of Italy in 2012.
The information gained from the on-site assessment will help evaluate the available options for freeing the rig from its grounded position.
The company has also been cited for deficiencies aboard another drilling ship, as detailed in this L.A. Times story. Shell also struggled with required tests of capping and containment equipment this summer, leading conservation advocates to call for a moratorium on Arctic offshore drilling until the equipment issues are fully resolved.