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Shell Says Has Plans in Beaufort to Limit Effect on Polar Bears

Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it has plans to limit the effect on wildlife from exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska after the U.S. designated some areas as “critical” for polar bears.

“Shell’s plans for exploring in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas analyze and mitigate any potential impacts to polar bears and other marine and terrestrial species,” the Hague-based company said today in a statement.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday designated more than 187,000 squares miles (448,000 square kilometers) of onshore barrier islands, denning areas and offshore ice as “critical habitat” for polar bears. Shell, Europe’s biggest oil company, plans drilling in the Beaufort Sea next year.

“This critical habitat designation enables us to work with federal partners to ensure their actions within its boundaries do not harm polar bear populations,” Tom Strickland, assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, said in a statement.

The Beaufort Sea is estimated to hold as many as 7 billion barrels of oil and as much as 20 trillion cubic feet (566 billion cubic meters) of natural gas, according to the Interior Department. The Chukchi Sea may hold as many as 12 billion barrels of crude and as much as 54 trillion cubic feet of the heating and power plant fuel.

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