A Small Post-Spill Victory: Safety Concerns Delay Shell’s Plans to Drill Off Alaska Coast


In a move at least partly credited to the fallout over the BP spill, Royal Dutch Shell announced that its plans to drill offshore of Alaska in 2011 won’t be implemented until at least 2012. Environmentalists are calling it a short-term victory, but oil industry supporters say it’s just slow-motion regulation.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that “…Shell has invested $3.5 billion in exploration programs in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, but the company’s plans have been held up amid legal challenges by environmental groups and native villagers concerned that oil exploration could hurt wildlife and habitat without adequate safeguards.”

The specific issue is air-quality research, but some of the more interesting big-picture aspects of that situation include a return to the same assurances that we heard before the BP spill. That is, that the chances for a spill are very, very low, and Shell has taken this official line: “…an unprecedented oil-spill response program and conducted a huge amount of scientific studies that support our drilling program.”

Right. Where have I heard all this before? Why do I not feel reassured?

The Journal story is here, via the Dow Jones News service: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110203-720011.html

A report with a bit more of a green hue is here: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2011/2011-02-04-091.html

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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