Federal Judge Rules Shell’s Spill Plan Sufficient

Shell’s 2012 campaign was not short on mishaps: A rig that ran aground, a failed test of spill containment systems, and small punishments from the government – including a ban on drilling deep into hydrocarbons.

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The Department of Interior allowed the company to proceed with pilot hole drilling despite not having a system in place to contain a worst case scenario oil spill.

“We have both a government willing to accept corporate assurance, and a company that clearly is not prepared for the Arctic,” complained Oceana attorney Michael Levine.

Oceana is one of the groups that filed suit. Levine said the government should have forced Shell to file an environmental impact statement for its Arctic plan.

The judge ruled that Shell does not need to submit to the E-I-S process. Congress would need to rewrite the laws to require that.

“The government argued, and the judge agreed, that in approving a spill plan the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has to do little more than check off on a list that Shell has particular equipment,” Levine said Tuesday. “It doesn’t have to decide whether it might actually work, whether those technologies have been tested, or might do the things the company says they will.”

Shell declined to speak on tape for this piece, but in a written statement, a spokesperson said the company welcomes the news.

Shell suspended its Arctic campaign after last year’s blunders. The federal government then released a report increasing expectations for any future drilling companies in the Arctic. Shell has not specifically said when it will return to the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

The groups could appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.