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EPA seeks public comments on new air quality permits for Shell and ConocoPhillips Arctic oil exploration activities

Release Date: 07/22/2011
Contact Information: Mark MacIntyre, EPA Public Affairs Seattle, 206-553-7302, macintyre.mark

(Seattle - July 22, 2011) Today, EPA released two additional draft air quality permits for Shell Oil Company and ConocoPhillips Company exploratory oil drilling operations in the Alaska Arctic Outer Continental Shelf. This process will allow the public and other key stakeholders to provide important input and feedback on air permits needed for the drill rigs and supporting fleets of icebreakers, oil spill response vessels, and supply ships operations in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas beginning in the 2012 and 2013 drilling seasons.

Shell and ConocoPhillips have proposed exploration drilling operations that would emit more than 100 tons of air pollutants a year and therefore, must have federal Clean Air Act Title V Permits. Both operations would emit less than 250 tons per year and therefore, do not need Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permits. These permits limit air pollution from the drill rigs and supporting fleet of vessels and will ensure the operations meet national ambient air quality standards.

Shell plans to begin exploration drilling with the vessel Kulluk in the Beaufort Sea beginning in the 2012 drilling season. ConocoPhillips plans to begin exploration drilling in the Chukchi Sea beginning in 2013.

Under its proposed Title V permit, Shell can operate only one vessel in the Beaufort Sea in any drilling season – either the Kulluk or the Discoverer, not both. The Discoverer and its support fleet are the subject of a separate EPA draft air quality permit currently undergoing public review and comment.

The Kulluk drilling rig arrived in Seattle’s Elliott Bay this week where its emissions reduction equipment will be retrofitted in order to comply with the draft Title V permit.

The draft Title V permits are subject to 45-day public comment periods as well as public hearings before EPA issues final permits.

EPA will accept public comments on the revised draft permits through September 6 and at public hearings in Barrow, Alaska on August
23 and 24, and in Anchorage on August 26. Final permits will be issued after public comments are reviewed and considered.

Comments must be postmarked or emailed to EPA Region 10 by September 6, 2011. The draft permits and supporting information as well as details about the public hearings are available on the web at:

On July 1, EPA also proposed revised draft air quality permits for Shell to operate the Discoverer drillship for oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea starting in 2012. Those permits are available for public comment through August 5. The public hearing on these permits will be held on August 4 in Barrow.

EPA air permits ensure compliance with air quality regulations when and if drilling commences, but on their own do not authorize drilling. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is the federal agency that provides authorization to drill in offshore federal waters. Find out more about BOEMRE at: