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Shell asks for rehearing of Ninth Circuit court decision; delays 2009 Beaufort drilling

Web posted Thursday, December 18, 2008

By Tim Bradner 
Alaska Journal of Commerce

Shell said it will file a petition with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Dec. 18 to ask for a rehearing of the court’s decision to block Alaskan Beaufort Sea drilling. The company also said it will not plan drilling or seismic activity in the area in 2009 because of an injunction against exploration issued by the appeals court. A three-judge panel of the appeals court made the decision against the exploration plan issued by the U.S. Minerals Management Service.

“After analyzing the recent opinion of the Ninth Circuit, Shell has decided to file a petition for rehearing to the full court. We believe the MMS performed a complete analysis of our exploration plan. That analysis prompted the agency to properly conclude that any impact from exploration activity in the Beaufort would have minimal impact on marine mammals and subsistence activities,” Shell said in a statement issued Thursday.

The company agrees with the dissenting judge that the court has exceeded its field of expertise, and in so doing, ignored the expertise of the federal regulators, the company said.

Shell also said in its statement that the court’s decision places excessive requirements on any future exploration program that could result in unnecessary costs and delays in delivering much-needed energy supplies to the nation.

The appeals court denied Shell’s plan arguing that the company and the MMS had done an inadequate analysis of the effects of drilling on marine mammals, particularly migrating bowhead whales. The MMS had prepared an Environmental Assessment of Shell’s activity, a more streamlined review than an Environmental Impact Statement, which typically requires two years.

The company also said it will defer any plans for drilling or seismic surveys in the Beaufort Sea in 2009 because of the litigation. “The reduced 2009 program means hundreds of jobs associated with support for the operation won’t materialize,” Shell said in its statement. “This will have a direct effect on Alaska communities. Our current level of investment in Alaska is not sustainable given our inability to drill.”

Tim Bradner can be reached at [email protected]”>[email protected].


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