Circuit Rejects Challenge to Alaska Drilling Plan

     PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – The 9th Circuit on Thursday rejected a lawsuit challenging federal approval of Shell Oil’s plans to drill for oil off Alaska’s coast. The decision comes as authorities battle to clean up a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico after a rig exploded last month, killing 11.

     The three-judge panel said the Minerals Management Service adequately considered the threat to wildlife and the risk of disaster before approving the project to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
     The Native Village of Point Hope and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission claimed there were “multiple deficiencies” in the federal agency’s two environmental impact surveys on the exploratory drilling.
     The panel disagreed. “We have carefully reviewed the thousands of pages of record and considered each of the alleged deficiencies in context,” the panel wrote in a five-page opinion. “We conclude that … the [agency] has met its obligations under [federal environmental laws]”
     Shell hopes to drill three wells in the Chukchi Sea and two in the Beaufort Sea this summer.

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