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EPA Board Nixes Shell’s Permits to Drill in Alaska

(CN) - The Environmental Protection Agency's federal appeals board revoked two oil-drilling permits that the agency issued to Shell under the Clean Air Act, citing inadequate nitrogen dioxide standards.

Several nonprofits - including the Center for Biological Diversity; Earthjustice, on behalf of several conservation groups; and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission and Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope - has asked the board to review the Outer Continental Shelf Prevention of Significant Deterioration permits granted in March to Shell Gulf of Mexico and Shell Offshore.

The permits authorize Shell to drill exploration wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

The three-judge panel of the Environmental Appeals Board concluded that the agency had improperly determined when the well becomes an Outer Continental Shelf source.

Drilling may in fact cause disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects among Alaska natives, the board found. When the permits were issued, the EPA relied on compliance with the national ambient air quality standard for nitrogen dioxide standards. Just weeks earlier, however, a final rule in the Federal Register concluded that the standards no longer provided enough protection of public health.

"The [EPA] also clearly erred in the limited scope of its analysis of the impact of NO2 emissions on Alaska native 'environmental justice' communities located in the affected area," Judge Anna Wolgast wrote for the board. "Accordingly, the board remands the Chukchi and Beaufort Permits in their entirety."


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