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).
EPA Issues Minor Modification to Shell Kulluk Air Permit
On Sept. 28, 2012, EPA issued a minor modification to the Shell Kulluk Minor Source Title V air permit for the Beaufort Sea Outer Continental Shelf. The minor permit modification clarifies several permit conditions; corrects typographical and math errors; allows catalyzed diesel particulate filters in place of oxidation catalysts; revises some monitoring and reporting requirements because Shell installed better emissions controls; and revises the Kulluk incinerator emissions for actual waste combusted daily. EPA expects overall emissions to decrease under this minor permit modification.
Shell submitted an application to modify its Kulluk Minor Source Title V air permit on July 5, 2012. Under the Minor Source Title V Part 71 regulations, when Shell filed its minor permit modification application with EPA, Shell is allowed to immediately implement the proposed changes. There are no public comment requirements for Title V minor permit modifications under 40 CFR Part 70/71 regulations on the Outer Continental Shelf.
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.
Shell Kulluk 2011 Final Air Permit Documents
EPA approved a final OCS Minor Source/Title V air permit issued to Shell Offshore Inc. for the Kulluk drill rig on April 12, 2012 and the permit became effective on that date. The permit allows air pollutant emissions from oil and gas exploration drilling by the Kulluk drill rig and a support fleet of icebreakers, oil spill response vessels, and supply ships in the Beaufort Sea Outer Continental Shelf. The Minor Source/Title V air operating permit limits Shell’s emissions of regulated air pollutants to less than 250 tons per year. EPA published a public notice of the final permit approval (PDF) (1 page, 202K) in the Federal Register on May 8, 2012. The U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit is reviewing petitions on the Shell Kulluk air permits. For more information, go to: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/content/faq.php
In December 2011, Congress moved the authority for regulating offshore exploration in the Arctic from EPA to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, but allowed EPA to continue processing “pending permits.”
Draft Permit and Related Documents