Shell Alaska has taken an unusual step in asking a federal court Wednesday for a declaratory judgment on their Arctic spill response plan that was approved by the department of Interior in February. Shell is seeking this judgment against a number of environmental and conservation groups in an effort to end run the litigation that will likely challenge the process that was used to approve their plan. Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith says the company wants a judge to consider sooner rather than later the merits of the spill response plan approval process.
“We filed a very narrow scope, talking about the process itself, it’s possible the merits of the plan itself will be challenged but that will likely come in another court and it’s my understanding that that has already been taken up by another court in California.”
Smith says if a federal judge agrees to review the plan and issue a decision, it has the potential to bind future litigation in that court.
Shell’s court filing names several organizations including the Sierra Club, Green Peace and The Alaska Wilderness League.
“There are a number of opposition groups named and historically those are the opposition groups that have used the courts as a stall tactic and if nothing else, we have no intention of sitting back and waiting for that to happen.”
Smith says Shell’s preemptive move does not prohibit challenges to the permits, but may limit the company’s exposure to last minute injunctions and 11th hour challenges he says, is what they want to avoid.
“And those have the potential to derail our plans and we have very small windows in which we can work, so to add any possible certainty to our program, we’ve filed this judgement in hopes that we can have that last second certainty, in other words, our message is very simple, if you have any issues with the approval of Shell’s permits, lets talk about these issues in court, right now.”
The petition was filed in U.S District court in Anchorage. A call to Alaska Wilderness League attorney Peter Van Tuyn was not returned by air time.
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