Environmental groups challenge BOEMRE permit for Shell deepwater well

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, June 10 -- Earthjustice, the former Sierra Club legal defense fund, sued the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement June 9 in federal court in New Orleans for approving Shell Oil Co.’s request for a deepwater drilling permit near the site of BP PLC’s 2010 Macondo well accident and crude oil spill.

The group’s suit on behalf of the Gulf Restoration Foundation, the Florida Wildlife Federation, and the Sierra Club charged that BOEMRE’s risk calculations were flawed and Shell’s drilling plan was not sufficient to protect communities along the US Gulf Coast. It said BOEMRE based its analysis on a 1-in-4,000 chance oil spill risk scenario, even though industry documents show the chance of a major spill at 1-in-43.

“It is as if the government regulators have learned nothing from the BP disaster,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. “Before new deepwater gulf drilling occurs, the government must make a realistic assessment of the risk to the gulf’s ecosystem, its communities, and the many jobs that depend on tourism, fishing, and recreation. It has utterly failed to do so here.”

BOEMRE did not immediately comment on the lawsuit. National Ocean Industries Association Pres. Randall B. Luthi said that it was misguided.

“Since the Macondo well accident, the entire offshore energy industry has worked tirelessly to assure that all exploration and development is done in accordance with new safety rules and additional safety reviews put in place by industry,” he said on June 9. “Yet the plaintiff environmental groups are in an all-out sprint to prevent the nation from safely realizing the potential of these vast oil and gas resources off our Gulf Coast. These are the same type of artificial roadblocks we have seen in Alaska.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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