What is the Outer Continental Shelf?
The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) refers to federal submerged lands that lie seaward of the states' jurisdiction (generally three nautical miles from the shoreline).
Application to Revise Air Permit
In January 2012, EPA issued a final Clean Air Act permit to Shell for the Discoverer drill ship and support fleet to explore for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea. The permit set strict limits on nitrogen oxides, particulates, and other pollutants based on the “best available” emission controls for the Discoverer drill ship and support fleet.
In June, Shell requested to revise the Discoverer Chukchi Sea air permit to allow some higher pollutant limits, based on early tests of their equipment. Shell submitted later requests for permit revisions based on actual equipment performance during their 2012 drilling season.
Permit Compliance and Enforcement
In September 2012, EPA issued a compliance order to Shell based on their application to revise the Discoverer Chukchi Sea air permit. The compliance order set higher temporary limits for some pollutants than were allowed in the permit.
In January 2013, EPA issued two violation notices for Shell’s Discoverer Chukchi Sea and Kulluk Beaufort Sea air permits. EPA found that Shell had multiple permit violations based on our September 2012 inspection of the Discoverer and based on Shell’s excess emission reports for the Discoverer and Kulluk.
EPA also terminated the September 2012 compliance order for the Discoverer Chukchi Sea permit. Next steps could include a consent decree with penalties, compliance orders to correct the violations, and possible mitigation measures. Consent decrees are subject to public notice and comment.
Application to Revise Air Permit for Chukchi Sea Operations
In January 2012, EPA issued a Clean Air Act permit for Shell’s Discoverer drill ship and support fleet to explore for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea. The air permit set strict limits on nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions based on “best available” state-of-the-art pollution reduction controls. In September, EPA issued a compliance order based on Shell’s June 2012 application to revise the permit. The compliance order imposed temporary limits for some emission sources higher than in Shell's permit, but EPA expected the fleet's overall emissions for 2012 to be lower than the original permit allowed due to Shell's shortened operating season.
On November 30, 2012, Shell submitted a revised application to the June 2012 permit revision application. The changes requested are based on actual equipment performance during the 2012 operating season, which includes excess emissions and permit deviations identified by Shell and by EPA during a September 2012 inspection of the Discoverer. In December, EPA notified Shell that their application is incomplete and requested submittal of missing information. A revised permit could be available for public comment in early 2013. Any revised permit will continue to ensure that emissions from the Discoverer drill ship and associated fleet will not cause or contribute to violations of any federal air quality standards. Proposed revisions to the air permit will be subject to public notice and comment under 40 CFR Part 124.
EPA has issued two separate Notices of Violation to Shell for its Clean Air Act permits for the Kulluk drill unit and Discoverer drillship and fleet for oil and gas exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Alaska. Based on EPA's inspection of the Discoverer, and Shell’s self-reports of excess nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions for the Discoverer and the Kulluk, EPA determined that Shell had multiple permit violations for each ship during the 2012 drilling season. EPA also notified Shell that it has terminated the September 2012 Compliance Order for the Discoverer's permit. Issuing a Notice of Violation is a common first step once EPA has identified permit violations. Next steps can include a consent decree for penalties, orders to correct the violations, and possible mitigation measures. Consent decrees are subject to public notice and comment. This action does not preclude Shell from applying for future permits.