9th Circuit Court rules in favor of Shell’s spill response plans

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday in favor of the Department of Interior’s approval of two oil spill response plans for Arctic drilling put forward by Royal Dutch Shell.  The company plans to explore for oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas this summer.

A handful of environmental groups brought the suit.  They claim the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement didn’t do enough to review Shell’s plans.

In an email, shell Spokeswoman Megan Baldino said the 9th Circuit Court decision was “welcome news and validates that the Department of Interior complied with applicable laws and regulations in approving [Shell’s] plan for work offshore Alaska.”

Baldino wrote that the company remains “confident that the [Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s] approval of [Shell’s] plans meets all legal and regulatory requirements.”

But environmental groups are troubled by the decision.  Holly Harris is a Staff Attorney with the group EarthJustice, which was involved in the suit. She also declined to be recorded, but in an email she said the decision was “a troubling outcome for the Arctic Ocean.” She added that “despite [Thursday’s] decision, the administration has not yet given final approval to Shell’s dangerous and dirty drilling in the Arctic Ocean.”  Harris writes that EarthJustice “urges President Obama and his administration to protect the Arctic Ocean and act to prevent climate change by saying no to drilling.”

Meanwhile, Shell continues to move forward on its plans for this summer.  According to Megan Baldino, the first of a number of vessels that will be part of the exploratory drilling effort is heading north to Dutch Harbor.

The oil giant’s contracted oil spill containment vessel, the Arctic Challenger, has left Seattle. It’s not yet clear when the ship will arrive.

Baldino says a team will be in Dutch Harbor next Monday to brief city leadership on their plans for the summer.