Royal Dutch Shell's Arctic drilling fleet plans to resume its search for fossil fuels in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas as early as July, but a permit hearing in Seattle, Washington, threatens the timetable. Environmentalists have protested against Arctic drilling, fearing destruction of one of the world's most ecologically sensitive regions.
The City of Seattle asserts that the port needs a new permit to host Shell's Oil's rig Polar Pioneer. The Port of Seattle and Foss Maritime, a West Coast tug and towing company, contested the decision and the Jul 23-24 hearing considers their appeal. A coalition of environmental groups have filed a motion to participate in the hearing on the side of the city and another motion was filed in June on the side of Foss and the port. The meetings may continue past the scheduled dates.
The oil giant has in hand several of the federal permits it needs, including a key permit from the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the way it plans to discharge drilling waste into the sea.
Shell pulled out of the Arctic in 2012 after a rig ran aground.
The company believes that it can safely resume drilling and could clean up 90-95 per cent of any oil spilled.
Environmental groups argue that an oil spill in the area would be extremely hard to clean up and would be destructive to the ecosystem.
According to U.S. Geological Survey estimates Arctic offshore reserves include 26 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Date written/update: 2015-06-21