The Shell Oil Company was forced to cancel plans to drill for oil this summer off the northern coast of Alaska after the Environmental Protection Agency denied it a permit.
Shell spent five years and almost $4 billion (with $2.2 billion on leases alone) exploring the possibility of drilling in the Arctic but was denied final approval because, according to the EPA, it had not taken into consideration the effects of emissions from a single icebreaking vessel on the 245 people of a village seventy miles away from the proposed offshore drill site!
Shell’s request for a permit had been challenged by two environmental groups. The EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board decided in their favor.
The US Geological Survey estimates that the American portion of the Arctic Ocean contains some 27 billion barrels of oil but the actual reserve is likely to be higher because not all of the area has been fully explored yet. The figure already represents two and a half times more oil than has flowed down the Trans Alaska Pipeline throughout its thirty year history however. That pipeline is now dangerously low on oil. At 660,000 barrels a day, it is carrying just a third of its capacity.
Republican senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who is a fierce proponent of expanding oil production in her state, blasted the EPA for its utter lack of perspective in this latest ruling. “If they’re not competent to handle it,” she said of the appeals process, “they need to get out of the way.”
Murkowski has supported legislation that would have stripped the EPA of its oversight role in Arctic offshore drilling.