Shell to Get Air Permit for Alaska ‘Fairly Soon,’ EPA Says

Royal Dutch Shell Plc is close to getting an air permit for oil exploration off the Alaska shore, said Gina McCarthy, an assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Shell, which acquired leases in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2005 and 2008, is waiting for approvals from the EPA and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement to start exploration. Previous permits issued by the EPA have been appealed, McCarthy said.

“I believe that we are very close to a strong permit,” McCarthy told the House Energy and Commerce Committee today during a hearing in Washington. “That will allow them to have actually three drilling operations going on in the Arctic in a way that is protective of public health and consistent with current law.”

Shell, based in The Hague, plans to drill as many as five exploratory wells a year in the Arctic next year and in 2013. The company filed an exploration plan for the Chukchi Sea with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management yesterday, Kelly op de Weegh, a company spokeswoman, said today in an e-mail. The plan for the Beaufort was filed earlier this month.

The House committee is considering legislation proposed by Republicans to speed the permitting process for exploration in Alaska. The EPA opposes such a measure, arguing that it may expose the state’s population to significant air pollution, McCarthy said today.

-- Editors: Judy Pasternak, Steve Geimann

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