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Greenpeace, Audubon Sue to Block Shell Alaska Spill Plan

Royal Dutch Shell Plc should be barred from drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas because its oil-spill plans are inadequate, Greenpeace Inc. and other environmental groups said in a lawsuit.

Greenpeace, the National Audubon Society and other groups sued the U.S. Interior Department, which approved Shell’s spill-response plans earlier this year, saying the agency violated the Clean Water Act by failing to ensure the plans can address a “worst-case oil spill.”

The approvals for Shell’s response plans should be thrown out, and offshore oil and gas activity blocked, until the Interior Department complies with the law, the groups said in a complaint filed today in federal court in Alaska. The filing couldn’t be confirmed in electronic court records.

Shell’s drilling off Alaska’s north coast will be delayed until August as the company waits for ice to clear and modifies a spill-response vessel to meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements, the company said in July.

$5 Billion

Shell, which has spent almost $5 billion in Alaska, plans to drill as many as five wells this year. Shell’s plans to tap resources in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, estimated to have more than 20 billion barrels of oil, have been targeted by environmental groups and native Alaskans who oppose drilling, citing the risks of an oil spill and air pollution.

Curtis Smith, a spokesman for Shell, said the company is confident the approved spill plans “will withstand legal review.”

“If regulators did not have confidence in every aspect of our oil spill response plans, we would not have the permits that we do and we would not be as close to drilling as we are,” he said.

Adam Fetcher, an Interior Department spokesman, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Alaska Wilderness League v. Salazar, U.S. District Court, District of Alaska.

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